Actions taken to date and planned actions to stabilize pay
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canadian Coast Guard are committed to contributing the necessary resources to support Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) through the integrated HR-to-Pay plan. Not every activity proposed by PSPC is tailored to DFO/Coast Guard, but we support the intent of every activity and commit to a response that will achieve the Government of Canada’s goal of pay stabilization going forward.
The Department has been disproportionately impacted by pay issues; our employees represent approximately 3% of the public service, but reflect 7% of cases in the Pay Centre backlog (24,634 out of 331,607 cases). For DFO/Coast Guard, paying employees accurately and on time is critical to maintaining operational readiness and protecting Canadians and Canadian waterways. Therefore, the Department is committed to working with PSPC, unions, and other Government departments to do more to complement and supplement pay stabilization activities.
DFO/Coast Guard has been seized with the issue of pay stabilization since well before we were onboarded to Phoenix in February of 2016. We participated in the work PSPC initiated in the lead-up to the opening of the new Pay Centre and its replacement by Phoenix of the former Regional Pay System. This included identifying the unique aspects of our collective agreements and our workforce, as well as the development of new business processes.
Ongoing activities have included collaboration with PSPC on a daily basis to flag issues of concern or to provide input into proposals for system enhancements and other process improvements. Following their creation, we also became active participants in governance committees and working groups. We have developed pay support teams who triage over 4,000 pay inquiries each month. Our Departmental Liaison Officer has escalated 4,000 serious cases to the Pay Centre. We have issued more than $4.7M in Priority Payments and Emergency Salary Advances. In addition, since July 2016, DFO has made missing allowances, premiums, or un-entered actings eligible for emergency funds, to ensure that our employees receive as much of their regular pay as possible.
The Department has also taken steps to address the Pay Action Request (PAR) rejection rate, analyse outstanding Section 34 (S34) approvals, and execute continuous improvement and training projects to decrease internal delays and errors leading to pay issues. Furthermore, we have enhanced our pay support capacity with additional resources and re-aligned many of our resources into a single team, while also strengthening capacity in the regions. It remains, however, that more than 24,000 DFO/Coast Guard cases are backlogged at the Pay Centre and this number is growing. Currently, 76% of our employees have outstanding cases and 100% of seagoing employees are affected. This stark reality weighs heavily on all of us, as leaders across the Department. Our employees deliver for us every single day, and we will not let up in our efforts to ensure that they are paid accurately and on time.
The Canadian Coast Guard hires and trains students each summer to perform search and rescue duties on Canadian waterways as part of an Inshore Rescue Boat crew. These crews work 46.6-hour weeks, a practice which does not align with Phoenix and consequently every single student will not be paid properly, missing 14% of their pay. Most work the entire summer without receiving this pay. The Department continues to work with PSPC to develop system solutions for accommodating collective agreements for non-standard hours, but in the meantime, the Department has developed a direct-entry system to ensure that students will receive this pay. This is not, typically, the only pay issue these students have, but it is one that the Department can play a part in resolving.
Six steps to strengthening our HR-to-Pay contribution
In order to take action on this difficult situation, DFO/Coast Guard is developing a departmental strategic plan that aligns with the PSPC Detailed Measures and the Integrated HR-to-Pay Plan to address those issues within departmental control, all the while supporting the Government of Canada’s concerted activities. It addresses the key activities for DMs to support the PSPC plan, as follows:
1. Establish an HR-to-Pay Team within your department for government-wide efforts
DFO and Coast Guard have progressively built a multi-disciplinary team to respond to pay issues. This team led by the Commissioner meets on a weekly basis to monitor progress and ensure consistency of information-sharing and alignment to PSPC’s efforts.
This team consists of senior leadership from DFO and Coast Guard, HR professionals, former compensation advisors, IT, finance, communications, and reporting and analytics experts who are dedicated to the task of stabilizing pay. In addition, we have leveraged more than 100 individuals from across the Department, including Timekeepers and Coast Guard pay support staff.
We are very proud of this dedicated team. Its members are relentless in their efforts to support employees every day, while working with our colleagues across the Government to develop and introduce sustainable fixes to get us all to a stable, reliable pay system.
DFO/Coast Guard has been actively working with PSPC both bilaterally at the DM level and through the existing governance structure. Our bilateral efforts at the DM table have produced a joint project plan that defines our collaborative commitment to meet the departmental critical needs through 2019.
In parallel, we have dedicated our experts towards a number of PSPC’s initiatives, including the Interdepartmental Analysis Working Group (IDAT), and will continue to do so. Representation on all 40 working groups would pose a capacity challenge for the Department. Nevertheless, we will ensure representation on all working groups critical to us and seek cooperation with other operational departments to ensure our input to all working groups.
2. Report on your progress on HR-to-Pay stabilization priorities
We have put in place rudimentary reporting mechanisms to consolidate multiple data sources provided by PSPC on items such as S34 transactions, PAR rejection rates, etc. We have a small team that analyzes existing data from PSPC and monitors our overall case load, but we are unable to directly monitor issues related to S34 transactions with the information available to us; we are working with PSPC to ensure ongoing access to this information.
DFO/Coast Guard is currently piloting the set-up of a business intelligence unit with the capacity to perform data analysis and reporting that will consolidate multiple data sources to better inform our strategic efforts and lead to more robust reporting capabilities.
As an example, we have attached as a reference a map indicating the scale of pay issues across our Department (Appendix A). This important back office work will support PSPC’s efforts, both on its project plan for DFO/Coast Guard (referenced above) and on its broader efforts for all departments.
3. Managers and employees are informed of HR-to-Pay developments
We communicate with our entire workforce on a bi-weekly basis in order to ensure employees can access the assistance they need with their pay issues. In addition, we relay all information received from PSPC to employees once our communication experts have adapted PSPC’s messages to suit the needs of our unique workforce.
Caring, timely, targeted, focused, and accessible information-sharing with employees and managers is critically important to us given the unique challenges we face. As our seagoing personnel and other operational staff have little or no access to the Internet or departmental intranets, we rely on supervisors and ship captains to provide pay information to their crews. All managers are expected to canvass their staff and ensure any hardship cases are handled quickly.
We are committed to enhancing pay-specific communications to employees and ensuring employees have the best information and tools to understand the pay situation and participate in pay stabilization efforts. This includes creating information hubs, disseminating updates and information from PSPC, and creating DFO/Coast Guard-specific communications products. Any communications plans to meet our needs must consider seagoing and remote employees without connectivity. We have unique communications challenges due to our operational context, and will continue to develop messaging for our own employees.
We are currently reviewing our communications approach with an eye toward making general pay information more easily available to employees without network connectivity. In future, we envision an internal communications campaign aligned to the elements of our strategic plan and PSPC’s training programs for employees, managers, and HR professionals.
4. Managers and employees understand their role and responsibilities in HR-to-Pay
Prior to the launch of Phoenix, DFO/Coast Guard’s pay response teams have regularly engaged senior management tables, S34 managers, and employees, with respect to their roles and responsibilities in the HR-to-Pay efforts. This includes briefing the department’s Executive Table, extended management tables, Bargaining Agents, and Departmental Audit Committees on our efforts.
Thirty percent of our employees have positions that do not easily align to the way Phoenix has been configured. To ensure these people are paid under Phoenix, we have developed and implemented training for our Timekeepers, internal Phoenix support teams, and S34 managers.
We are committed to providing training to our employees, both connected and non-connected. We have concerns about whether standard training products and platforms will meet the needs of our employees, particularly sea-going and operational employees, but intend to create internal capacity to ensure that our employees receive training that meets the Government of Canada’s requirements and is reflective of our operational culture and requirements.
5. Managers incorporate robust HR-to-Pay practices into their routine
We have completed enterprise-wide engagement but obtaining satisfactory S34 results has so far defied our best efforts. Therefore, we are doubling down and making this one of the key components of our strategic plan. This plan will have a particular focus on ensuring S34 approvals for seagoing and other operational staff.
We have sent a recurring meeting invite, every two weeks on the Friday of pay-week, to DFO/Coast Guard Managers to ensure they dedicate some time to the approval of outstanding S34 transactions. We will also examine whether asking employees to e-mail managers about pending approvals in our non‑connected and operational environments would further decrease outstanding S34 approvals and undertake that activity if it is found to be helpful.
DFO/Coast Guard has undertaken an analysis of outstanding S34 approvals and rolled out specific coaching and mentoring activities to address these transactions. This includes training on S34 responsibilities and how to fulfill them, identifying and reassigning approvals assigned to the wrong manager, and working with PSPC to solve system issues that create “phantom” approvals.
The S34 issue is compounded by our work environment and is troubling because the number of S34 approvals (and subsequent issues) is orders of magnitude higher for operational personnel compared to office workers. For some specific groups within the Department, enhanced training is required because delayed S34 approvals will cause compounding issues.
We also face difficulties with acting and allowances for at-sea personnel. Base pay in the Coast Guard is made up of three elements that can sometimes cause confusion. Coast Guard’s pay structure is not well-suited for Phoenix as it was designed for entry ahead of time, whereas Coast Guard as a group has a high rate of short-notice acting appointments whose shift premiums, overtime, and allowances are considered part of base pay.
6. Employees’ contact information is up to date
The DFO/Coast Guard strategic plan includes a mechanism for verifying HR entries, including, but not limited to, personal contact information for employees, before pay issues are escalated to the Pay Centre. This will ensure that pay issues resulting from errors in HR entries are not added to the Pay Centre queue. A proactive check of personal contact information could also be included as part of our plan.
Additional activities to complement the PSPC Detailed Measures, Integrated HR-to-Pay Plan
In addition to meeting these “Top 6” requirements noted above, the proposed departmental strategic plan seeks to complement the PSPC plan. The DFO/Coast Guard plan includes:
- Undertaking a complete HR-to-Pay workflow analysis and continuous improvement to identify and ameliorate processes that lead to pay delays or errors, along with those that align poorly with Phoenix. Business processes for our seagoing personnel, which align least with Phoenix, will be prioritized;
- Contracting to develop an external Pay Review Framework exploring how best to provide pay reviews for employees that will give them confidence in the system and certainty that they have been paid what they are owed;
- Developing direct entry solutions for processing backlogged transactions;
- Taking a leadership role in working with other operational departments (i.e., DND, CSC, and RCMP) on common pay issues and in seeking solutions. This includes a director‑level working group, as well as a communications working group to discuss our unique communications challenges, seek solutions, and share products and best practices;
- Offering training to Pay Centre “pods” dedicated to DFO/Coast Guard employees regarding HR and pay processes unique to our operational personnel;
- Continuing to contribute to Root Cause Analysis and validation of system fixes for DFO/Coast Guard-specific pay needs; and
- Customization of PARs and the PAR experience with the objective of creating a process, desktop links to the latest PAR, and edits that are focussed on reducing the PAR rejection rate. We are currently working with PSPC on aspects of this initiative.
By undertaking these activities, we can reduce delays and errors that lead to pay issues, contribute to a system for accurate pay, and support employee confidence in their pay.
Canadian Coast Guard ships cannot legally sail without key positions filled by appropriately trained personnel. A single absence, such as a sick employee, may cause a cascade of acting appointments. Consequently, seagoing personnel have many more acting appointments than typical public servants. Many of these personnel also have increments that have not been adjusted since Phoenix was introduced, and continue to receive overtime payments on acting assignments calculated at the wrong rate.
Furthermore, our Department plans to supplement PSPC capacity by continuing to build on our pay support teams to:
- Receive, log, and triage employee pay issues, respond to employee inquiries, and perform HR validation to prevent escalation to the Pay Centre for those issues stemming from errors in HR entries;
- Process simple transactions; and
- Diagnose and resolve pay issues before escalation.
Given the scale and scope of our issues, we commit to remaining strategic partners in the effort to stabilize pay. Our teams have significant DFO/Coast Guard-specific pay experience, and with PSPC support in providing necessary access and training, their expertise will help to relieve pressure on the Pay Centre processing teams and Client Service by decreasing the number of PARs, Phoenix Feedback forms, and escalations arriving at the Pay Centre from our Department. By making this contribution in support of our own employees, we can improve the welfare of all Public Service employees while PSPC works toward a comprehensive, sustainable solution.
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