Response from Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Dear Mr. Wernick:
Thank you for this opportunity to share the views of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) with respect to our employees’ pay. Although I realize that many of my colleagues will be imparting the same message to you, it is unfortunate that this initiative, planned and implemented by the Centre, has been such a disaster from its launch. Our employees are paying the price and they find it difficult to understand that deputy heads are powerless when it comes to dealing with this situation that has persisted for one and a half years.
As the IRB’s deputy head, I feel helpless in this situation as I am unable to reassure my employees that they will receive the amounts to which they are entitled in a timely manner and that they will be able to obtain proper advice in due course on their salaries and benefits.
The IRB is a tribunal that employs just over 1,000 people. In the past year, the IRB has experienced an unprecedented and widely unexpected increase of 92 percent in its refugee protection claims. We therefore needed to redirect our internal resources to meet our legislated obligations.
That being said, the IRB set up a small team to try to answer basic compensation questions. This team also performs some analyses in urgent files to help explain any issues to employees so that they can correctly complete the Phoenix feedback form or escalate issues to our liaison officer at the Pay Centre. However, the IRB has lost all of its employees in this unit over the last four months and although we are trying to recruit people for the unit, it is not an easy task.
Our employees in this unit have limited access in the Phoenix system and can make no changes. These employees, whose mission is to help their colleagues, are caught between employees who are furious, discouraged and at times harassing, and the Pay Centre, which does nothing, does not respond or makes additional errors.
As part of Phase 1 of the Pay Centre consolidation, the IRB undertook a workforce adjustment exercise for its 10 compensation advisors. All the resources dedicated to compensation activities were therefore transferred to the Centre permanently and irreversibly. Five years have now passed since the IRB has had anyone with compensation competencies on site. Nevertheless, from the very first day, the IRB has supported residual activities. However, no one predicted that the work would be so large in scope and that it could not be supported with the remaining resources. The following list describes the concrete actions taken by the IRB:
- The IRB created an internal team, using its own resources, at a cost of $315,000 per year to manage residual pay-related issues following the implementation of Phoenix and it expects to spend at least the same amount, if not more, this fiscal year. The team does not carry out any pay transactions; rather, its purpose is to try to manage as best as it can the problems resulting from the new system.
- Internal training was offered to our managers prior to the implementation of Phoenix, with the limited information received on the new system.
- The initial training provided by the Canada School of Public Service for managers and employees was promoted.
- Internal communications were shared via emails to all employees and on our Intranet site regarding the various aspects of pay as we received new information.
- Certain tools sent by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat or the Pay Centre were published on our Intranet site; since some information was not relevant, we tried to strike a balance between providing too much information and not enough. Moreover, we created an additional tool on how to read one’s pay stub, which would otherwise be completely incomprehensible.
- The IRB participates, without fail, in all calls/meetings to which it is invited on this subject matter.
- The IRB provides priority payments and emergency salary advances, if necessary, when an employee has not been paid, when an employee has been paid only a small amount or when there are serious shortfalls.
- The IRB sends regular reminders to managers about the importance of approving outstanding transactions and to employees to update their section 34 manager, when a change has occurred.
- The IRB provides data, reports and information when these are requested by the central agencies and Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
Over the next few months, the IRB will:
- hire an FI-02 to review and reconcile overpayments;
- hire an AS-02 with experience/competencies in compensation to help the Finance unit with the overpayment review exercise (however, it is important to note that it is very difficult to recruit a person with these competencies);
- send communications about taxes, common errors on pay action requests and other relevant information;
- promote the new official training and make it mandatory for managers and employees; and
- remind employees to update their personal information.
I sincerely believe that we are doing everything we can, with our limited resources, to support colleagues at the PSPC in carrying out their mandate in the administration of compensation services. It goes without saying that we hope to see a satisfactory resolution as quickly as possible.
I hope this response will be useful to the Government in its genuine efforts to correct this deplorable situation.
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