The Public Sector Alliance of Canada wants parliamentarians to ensure that workers on Parliament Hill get compensation for the Phoenix pay fiasco that’s equal to what other public servants have received.
In March, more than 140,000 public servants received lump-sum payments of $2,500 before taxes, to compensate for missed, delayed, or erroneous payments made through the Phoenix pay system since 2016.
But they didn’t include Hill staff, who are covered by different legislation than most of the federal public service.
In arbitration last week, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board ruled that 62 House of Commons workers would not get the same level of compensation for Phoenix-related problems as have other federal workers.
The Public Sector Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has filed notice to challenge the decision at the Federal Court of Appeal.
It’s unfair that Hill workers, whom MPs and senators rely on to fulfill their duties, won’t be equally compensated, the union says.
“This is just a basic question of fairness,” Alex Silas, regional executive vice-president for PSAC in the national capital region, told iPolitics. “The government made a commitment to address the hardship and stress and financial uncertainty and pain and suffering caused by Phoenix.”
A board hearing about compensating Senate workers for Phoenix-system errors is scheduled for May 7.
Hill workers who are paid using Phoenix include members of the Parliamentary Protective Services, Library of Parliament workers, and employees who produce Hansard and transcripts of House and Senate meetings.
The employer, the House of Commons, argued in arbitration that staff experienced Phoenix pay problems “differently” than the rest of the public service, the board noted in its ruling.
The House of Commons did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The union is worried that last week’s ruling, which applied to House of Commons workers, will set a precedent for other groups of workers who were paid through Phoenix but didn’t qualify for the lump-sum payments. They include National Battlefields Commission employees in Quebec, for example, Silas said.
The Phoenix pay system was launched in February 2016, and eventually caused pay problems for nearly 80 per cent of federal public servants. It will cost Ottawa billions of dollars to keep operating it until a replacement system is created.
An agreement to pay damages was finalized between the Treasury Board of Canada and PSAC last October, and lump-sum payments were sent out on March 3.
Meanwhile, another group of workers on the Hill was recently told by Public Services and Procurement Canada that they don’t qualify for sick pay because they’re freelancers, not employees.
French- and English-language interpreters who work during news conferences and other parliamentary meetings won’t be paid benefits, the Canadian Press has reported.
Under the Official Languages Act, Parliament can’t sit without translation services from English to French, and vice versa.
About 80 interpreters are qualified to work on the Hill, and they’re not permitted to work from home.