Ottawa to launch 'pay experiments' as next step to replace Phoenix pay system
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Ottawa to launch 'pay experiments' as next step to replace Phoenix pay system

Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada protest on the three year anniversary of the launch of the pay system in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. The minister responsible for replacing the federal government's disastrous civil service pay system says Phoenix will likely be running for several years while a series of pay "experiments" are tested along side it. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — The minister responsible for replacing the federal government’s disastrous civil-service pay system says Phoenix will likely be running for several years while a series of pay “experiments” are tested alongside it.

Treasury Board President Joyce Murray is to announce today the next phase in creating a new human-resources and pay system for the government’s roughly 300,000 employees.

For several months, the government has been working with pay-system suppliers to see which one could replace Phoenix, which has improperly paid more than half of all federal workers by depositing too much money in their bank accounts, short-changing them or in some cases not paying them at all for long periods.

Murray is expected to outline how the government plans to move to the next phase in developing a new system.

While the government has slowly whittled down the number of pay errors it’s been dealing with, the government pay centre was still dealing with a backlog of pay cases totalling 239,000 at the end of last month.

The previous Conservative government projected the Phoenix system would save taxpayers $70 million annually, but the cost of stabilizing it — and searching for a replacement system — is now estimated to have surpassed $1.1 billion.

Contracting several potential providers to test their wares in particular departments is a better way of creating a new system than hiring just one supplier, Murray said Tuesday as she left a cabinet meeting.

“From my perspective that’s the right way forward because we’ll be figuring out the challenges before we’re going live with a new system,” she said.

“And we may have to have the old system in parallel with the new pay experiments as we go forward.”

The government is expected to steer clear of announcing a firm deadline or full cost projection for its new pay system.

“We’re going to focus on the project as being the priority,” said Murray. “But the budgets and timelines are not the driver.”

The Canadian Press

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