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Public service unions urge creation of $75-million Phoenix contingency fund

Create $75-million Phoenix fund: unions

OTTAWA — Three federal public service unions are calling on the Liberal government to include a $75-million contingency fund in the coming budget to help address the Phoenix pay system fiasco.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees said Thursday the fund would help ensure workers are paid correctly and on time.

Since the government launched its new electronic pay system, more than 82,000 workers have complained of being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The backlog has been brought down to less than 7,000 files, although dealing with them has significantly stalled processing of new payroll changes filed over the last few months.

Solutions need to go beyond fixing technology, PSAC national executive vice-president Chris Aylward said Thursday, adding a contingency fund would help expand the capacity of departments to address Phoenix challenges.

“They are certainly the ones that are there with the employees who are facing these problems and they’re the ones who know best, exactly what they need, in order to be able to assist the employees,” he said.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Public Services Minister Judy Foote said the government is exploring what needs to be done but she said does not know if that will involve spending another $75 million.

“I do know that we’re open to working with the union,” Foote said.

“We’re open to identifying whatever money we need to, to fix the problem.”

Foote has said it is “totally unacceptable” employees are going without pay and said an injustice was done to employees by the previous Conservative government.

She insists the Liberals are now trying to ensure workers have a better payroll system than ever.

“I’ve said time and time again since the beginning of this, my focus in on making sure employees get paid, and that is where my focus continues to be,” she said.

—with files from Terry Pedwell

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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press