Archived: Response from Environment and Climate Change Canada

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

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Mr. Michael Wernick
Clerk of the Privy Council and
Secretary to the Cabinet
80 Wellington Street, Room 332
Ottawa ON  K1A 0A3

Dear Mr. Wernick:

Thank you for your letter of November 2, 2017, concerning the Phoenix pay system. We appreciate the opportunity to respond and outline the actions we are taking to help ensure that Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) employees are paid accurately and on time, and contribute to the stabilization of the pay system. As deputy ministers, we believe that it is of the utmost importance to support our employees and the public service of Canada as a whole.

ECCC was one of the first federal departments to implement the full HR-to-Pay directive of the Government of Canada (the transfer of departmental compensation advisors to Miramichi, and the implementation of both Phoenix and My GCHR). Consequently, the Department has been actively working to address the challenges faced by employees since the issues with the Phoenix pay system first became apparent, and we continue to learn from our experiences and share best practices with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS), and other federal organizations.

Our foremost focus has been on addressing the very real and immediate financial needs of employees through a dedicated team, as well as ensuring open and regular information sharing and communication, ensuring that teams are in place to support staff and that managers across the Department are properly trained, and implementing solutions to target pay challenges for employees.

We are also working actively with partners across government to develop common solutions, and have shared our ten best practices on pay services with other departments and agencies (see Appendix A).

As Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna has been actively involved in supporting our efforts, and those of her Cabinet colleagues, as a member of the working group of ministers, to address pay system challenges and support employees. The Associate Deputy Minister briefs Minister McKenna on a weekly basis to keep her informed and involved in addressing pay system challenges. An update on Phoenix pay issues is also discussed on a weekly basis by ECCC’s Executive Management Committee.

We outline below a number of the actions we have taken to support staff and have also enclosed more detailed information on these measures (see Appendix B).

Departmental actions

Addressing the needs of employees

  • A dedicated departmental team and an internal online service desk have been established to address staff inquiries and appropriate follow-up.
  • A call centre has been launched where staff can be easily reached to respond to staff calls.
  • A pay liaison team has been put in place to support affected employees, including staff placed at a satellite office of the pay centre in Gatineau. The pay liaison team is focusing in particular on priority cases of no pay, maternity/parental and disability leave, students and northern issues.
  • An expedited priority payment process has been established through the Department’s Corporate Services and Finance Branch.
  • The Department has worked in close collaboration with the bargaining agents to identify and escalate critical cases and address questions at joint meetings with management.
  • A monitoring system has been put in place so that management can actively report issues, including those pertaining to students, to the pay team in the Human Resources Branch.
  • By the end of the month, 49 departmental employees will be working full-time on providing support to the various issues incurred by Phoenix. The Department expects to increase this number in the coming months.

Promoting information sharing and communication

  • We are committed to keeping employees informed. Since April 2016, ECCC has published more than 80 pay‑related articles on its intranet to keep employees and managers up to date on the challenges associated with the system and how they can find help to address them.
  • Senior management, as well as the Minister, have been engaged with staff in face-to-face conversations to better understand the challenges they encounter regarding pay and discuss the measures that the Department has taken to support them.
  • Improved information systems and data analytics capacities have been established. In particular:
    • We developed and implemented an internal pay dashboard for management to better understand the pay issues affecting the Department and target actions to address them. This provided the model for dashboards being used by TBS for all departments and agencies.
    • Staff worked overtime to undertake an extensive data clean-up exercise in order to ensure data integrity in the HR Management Information System.

Ensuring proper staffing and training

  • Training staff is critical to ensuring that cases can be addressed in a timely fashion and effectively closed. The Department’s Human Resources Branch has been giving mandatory sessions to delegated managers to ensure their full engagement in helping to resolve these issues.
  • The Department has also made the Canada School of Public Service training on Phoenix (Phoenix Manager Self Service) mandatory for managers. More than 95 percent of delegated managers in the Department have now completed this training.

Implementing solutions to target pay challenges for employees

  • In September 2017, the Department established a consolidated “trusted source” team dedicated to reviewing and submitting pay action requests to the PSPC pay centre on employees’ behalf in an effort to avoid errors and delays. Since then, the error rate has declined significantly.
  • An ambitious calendar of focused efforts to address the backlog of retroactive acting appointments was implemented in September 2017. Data entry employees have been signing up for overtime shifts on nights and weekends in order to complete as many actions as possible.
  • We are actively working to support implementation of collective bargaining agreements. Dedicated groups of compensation advisors are working exclusively on processing salary increases and retroactive payments, and this will continue to be a priority.

External actions

  • ECCC’s dashboard was extended to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Parks Canada in the Environment portfolio, and was used by TBS as a basis to build the HR-to-Pay dashboards prepared on a bi-weekly basis.
  • The Department is an active contributor to the various governance structures supporting the HR-to-Pay implementation at the Deputy and Assistant Deputy Minister level, and supports the Minister in her role as a member of the ministerial working group to address Phoenix pay issues. Of particular note:
    • The Department’s chief financial officer attends a related Assistant Deputy Minister committee on behalf of all chief financial officers in the federal government.
    • The Department’s Director General for Human Resources Transformation has co-chaired the Interdepartmental Analysis Working Group in charge of the root cause analysis on systemic and recurring issues of the pay system.
  • ECCC recently signed a memorandum of understanding with PSPC to ensure that the Department’s pay interventions are fully aligned with the Government of Canada priorities, and that all of its actions contribute to the overall pay improvements.

In closing, we would like to reiterate the importance that ECCC places on this priority. We would like especially to acknowledge the patience of departmental employees who have endured hardship, and to thank those who are working tirelessly to ensure that their colleagues are taken care of.

Please be assured of the Department’s continued support and efforts to address the Phoenix pay system situation, and to ensure that employees are paid accurately and on time.


Stephen Lucas, Ph.D.
Deputy Minister

Dr. Martine Dubuc
Associate Deputy Minister


c.c.: The Honourable Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P.

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