Response from Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

November 9, 2017

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

Dear Mr. Wernick:

The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) is actively working with our employees and the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) Pay Centre to identify and resolve all pay issues within our Agency. Currently, our internal tracking report indicates that FedDev Ontario has 211 pay issue cases, affecting 135 of our employees, which constitutes 56 percent of the Agency staff. The Executive Committee and I are fully committed to ensuring employee compensation remains a departmental priority and to taking actions to mitigate any undue hardship resulting from pay issues that may be experienced by FedDev Ontario employees.

FedDev Ontario is a small department of 240 employees. Headquartered in Waterloo, the Agency has additional offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Peterborough.  In February 2016, FedDev Ontario transitioned to the PSPC Pay Centre and the Phoenix pay system and in July 2016, transitioned to the My GCHR system. As such, FedDev Ontario is 1 of 11 departments in the HR-PAY-Pension Landscape that have transitioned to all three areas of pay transformation.  

Preparatory Actions

To prepare staff for the transition to Phoenix and the PSPC Pay Centre, the Agency provided all employees with a “Transition Checklist” that explained what would be required of them during the transition. This checklist included:

  • Instructions for all staff to complete online Phoenix training (function-specific modules);
  • Access to Agency-led classroom training on how to interact with the PSPC Pay Centre; and,
  • Information on how to access and use both MyKey and the Compensation Web Access (CWA) portal.

Training

Prior to the transition to Phoenix and the PSPC Pay Centre in February 2016, 100 percent of FedDev Ontario employees, managers, finance and HR staff completed function-specific Phoenix online training through the Canada School of Public Service. In addition, after transitioning to My GCHR in August 2016, the Agency offered all employees additional access to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) information sessions.

The Agency began to implement actions to support the resolution of employee pay issues as soon as it became apparent that staff were experiencing challenges with the new pay system. These included:

Emergency Pay

To minimize undue hardship to employees experiencing pay issues, the Agency immediately implemented a transparent approach to requests for Emergency Salary Advances (ESAs) and priority payments. This approach was clearly communicated to all employees through their managers, as well as through departmental emails and the HR intranet site. FedDev Ontario employees are continually reminded that ESAs and priority payments are available to them. Since February 2016, we have issued a total of 179 ESAs and priority payments.

Tracking

The most significant action taken by the Agency has been to set up and maintain detailed tracking of all employee pay issues, in parallel with the PSPC Pay Centre reports. The internal tracking report is structured to track the number of new cases reported per pay period, the number of cases that have been resolved and the number of ESAs or priority payments that have been issued by the Agency. Similar to other departments, we have continued to see an upward trend in the number of outstanding cases, as the number of pay issues reported each pay period exceed the number of issues that have been resolved.

FedDev Ontario’s internal tracking process provides recorded evidence of the types of issues that FedDev Ontario staff have experienced. The pay issues are broken down into priority categories: no pay, at risk for no pay and error with pay. With the implementation of My GCHR during summer 2016, we began to share this information with PSPC to increase their awareness of the challenges and issues experienced in the Agency. In tracking employee pay issues, we continually compare our internal information with reports and dashboards from PSPC and Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) as they have become available. Importantly, as a small department, we are able to quickly contact staff who have identified concerns to reassure them that their issues are being monitored by the HR unit. In addition, my HR team and finance staff have been able to prevent some issues from occurring through careful monitoring of Section 33 salary approvals. Going forward, the Agency will continue to strongly encourage employees to come forward and report all pay issues to both FedDev Ontario HR and the PSPC Pay Centre.

Communication to Managers and Employees

FedDev Ontario is committed to ensuring that managers and employees are kept well informed of pay issue updates and the tools available to assist them. I have continually provided updates on employee pay issues in regularly held town hall meetings with staff. The HR Branch also ensures that all relevant information is routinely shared across the Agency, including updates from PSPC and TBS such as:

  • Year-end tax information;
  • Simple instructions regarding the completion of Pay Action Requests (PARs);
  • Tips and Tricks series created by the PSPC Pay Centre; and,
  • Collective agreement employee pay schedule.

In addition, our HR intranet site is continually updated to provide information on the PSPC Pay Centre, Phoenix, Leave, Pension & Benefits, TBS information sheets, as well as contact information for reporting pay issues. The touchdown page of the HR intranet site provides a direct link to the Phoenix feedback form so employees can easily report any pay issue.

Senior Management Engagement

Since February 2016, regular updates on My GCHR, Phoenix and the Pay Centre have been provided to the Agency Executive Committee who, in turn, communicate these issues in their own branch meetings. Since July 2017, pay issue updates have been provided biweekly as a standing item of the Executive Committee by the Director General (DG) of HR, accompanied by our own internal tracking report.

Agency HR Branch Organization

As a small department, we have a small HR Branch that is responsible for all corporate and operational HR functions for the Agency, including My GCHR data management and compensation liaison. In August 2016, the Agency recognized the need for increased resources to support employee pay issues by reallocating funds in support of a full-time compensation liaison officer, as well as an additional HR assistant to improve timely and accurate data entry into My GCHR. In September 2017, the HR Branch was re-organized to create a blended HR Data and Compensation Liaison Unit, comprised of a Team Leader and Coordinators that are responsible for both My GCHR data, as well as compensation liaison activities. This Unit devotes a portion of its time to forensic pay work in an effort to identify causes of employee pay issues. This summer, one of our HR coordinators participated in the Phoenix Bootcamp to strengthen the Unit’s ability to better understand and identify employee pay issues.

Partnership with the Pay Centre

To build on our relationship with our new pay service provider, HR Branch staff participate in teleconferences with the PSPC Pay Centre and the HR Transformation Team at the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) to review system-wide and employee-based issues, issues of data integrity and HR data management. To date, 331 employee issues have been resolved through these efforts.

Students

During the Agency’s 2017 student hiring campaign, the Agency ensured all students were provided with a thorough orientation session, including detailed information regarding pay and how to report any concerns. We continually checked in with students to ensure they were not experiencing pay difficulties. All student pay issues that were reported to HR were addressed on a priority basis with the Pay Centre, and personal follow-up was provided by the Agency’s HR unit to all affected students.

Collective Agreement Implementation

In preparing for collective agreement implementation, we worked closely with TBS to ensure our HR data was accurately entered into My GCHR to support processing in Phoenix.

Bargaining Agents

I communicated the Agency’s commitment to pay issues to our bargaining agent colleagues at our bi-annual National Labour Management Consultation Committee (NLMCC) meetings in November 2016 and May 2017.

To date, we have received three grievances related to pay issues. Of these, one was withdrawn as the issue was resolved, one is at adjudication and the third is currently being scheduled at final level within the Agency. In responding to the second grievance, we were able to provide a detailed breakdown of pay actions on the employee’s file as a result of our detailed tracking.

Going Forward

Going forward, I am committed to continue with our current actions towards the goal of stabilizing pay for all FedDev Ontario employees. In recognition of the integrated nature of HR data and compensation, we plan to implement the HR-to-Pay Training provided by the HR Management Transformation Sector of OCHRO across the Agency and are targeting to roll this training out to the Agency by December 2017.

Further, on an enterprise-wide basis, the Agency will be participating in the “POD Pilot” with the PSPC Pay Centre, OCHRO, ISED and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). This pilot project is moving the operational teams in the Pay Centre to a more client-based approach, organizing Compensation Advisors (CAs) and Compensation Assistants into “Pods”, and processing pay transactions oriented to departmental needs. My DG of HR and members of her team visited the Pay Centre in Miramichi last week as the first stage in our active participation in the POD Pilot. I view our participation in the pilot as important given that some 35 percent of departments serviced by the Pay Centre are considered “small” or “micro.” Smaller departments and agencies, as a function of their size, can more easily contact affected employees personally to demonstrate institutional support ‎and attention, as well as more quickly identify potential systemic trends and issues. I look forward to offering my Agency’s full support to our colleagues at the Pay Centre in this pilot, and hope that we will be able to identify additional actions to respond to the challenges experienced by our employees.

In closing, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to provide detailed information on FedDev Ontario’s response to the challenges posed by the pay system and to reiterate that the resolution of employee pay issues will remain a priority for FedDev Ontario. I am committed to ensuring that the Agency continues to implement actions that will introduce increased stability in the pay system.

Yours sincerely,

James Meddings

c.c.: The Honourable Navdeep Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
John Knubley, Deputy Minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development
Les Linklater, Associate Deputy Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada
Yaprak Baltacioglu, Secretary of the Treasury Board
Catrina Tapley, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Operations), Privy Council Office

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