Response from Department of National Defence

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

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

Mr. Wernick,

Thank you for your letter dated November 2, 2017 requesting information about actions the Department of National Defence (DND) has taken to help stabilize the pay system and ensure our employees are paid accurately and on time.

I want to assure you that DND is dedicated to ensuring our employees are properly compensated for their work and for their contribution to the Government of Canada. The civilian workforce of DND is a critical element of ensuring the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces are able to deploy around the world and return safely. We have taken and will continue to take significant and necessary steps to address employee pay issues and to ensure the department plays its part in addressing whole of government compensation issues.

Context

The DND employs approximately 28,000 public servants at any given time. Our workforce is managed by military and civilian managers located in 40 locations across Canada and overseas, and we offer more than 70 types of jobs – from programs (for example policy and procurement) to direct operational support (for example ship repair, fire fighters and kitchen staff). Ten of 15 federal bargaining agents are present within the Department, representing 18 collective agreements. Our total payroll is approximately $1.6B annually with $66.5M in bi-weekly payments.

The current situation at DND as of November 1, 2017.

  • DND’s 34,198 outstanding cases over 30 days represents 10% of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)’s backlog - this is an increase of 3,500 cases since June 2017.
  • 16,700 employees (63% of DND’s workforce) have outstanding pay issues.
  • 8,200 employees have one case, 4,300 employees have two cases, and 4,200 employees have 3 or more cases.
  • The cases span across all transaction types, however, are most numerous in actings (6,651), entitlements (4,875), overpayments (3,091), terminations (2,542), rehires (2,385), and other (4,425).
  • Cumulatively DND has issued more than $2.6M in emergency salary advances, priority payments and out of pocket claims.

Actions to Date

Since the transition to Phoenix in February 2016, DND has instituted specific measures to directly support our managers and employees.

  • We are re-establishing our compensation services capacity since the February 2016 transition. The current capacity on the Compensation Team is 65 employees (17 compensation advisors), with a planned growth to 100 (including 35 compensation advisors).
  • We have a dedicated team of timekeepers to input pay action requests for military managers of civilians who cannot gain access to Phoenix (due to no PRI). This team of 19 timekeepers in the NCR ensure timely entry into the system.
  • Over the past 6 months, 10 compensation advisors have been integrated into PSPC satellite offices and 7 are assigned in the department to address DND-critical and outstanding cases. Over 1,800 cases have been resolved to date. We are engaged in discussions with PSPC to embed additional compensation advisors in other satellite offices.
  • Trusted Source team (section 34 verification) of five employees in St-Jean, Quebec is providing a national service which has resulted in having a one of the lowest PAR rejection rates (currently at 11%).
  • Provided ongoing communication and training to the Defence Team on pay issues ranging from info sessions on specific topics to town halls to electronic guides and tips. To date, training has been completed by 79% of employees and managers.
  • Created an out-of-pocket claims unit of 5 employees to help support current and former employees who incurred out of pocket expenses or had their social benefits impacted due to the Phoenix implementation. This team is also dedicated to support employees experiencing financial hardship by providing priority payments on non-basic pay. A total of 65 claims have been received with payments of more than $11k for out-of-pocket claims so far as well as a total of 115 priority payments processed for more than $360k.
  • Dedicated 3 resources to fix salary reconciliation and financial reporting inconsistencies and engaged directly with PSPC officials to identify sources reporting issues.
  • Created a dedicated communications team and web page for timely product delivery to ensure employees and managers have easy access to relevant and important information.
  • All L1s have been directed to personally engage their employees especially those that have been faced with zero pay situations. I have also personally done 2 large town hall meetings (Halifax and Esquimalt) at locations with largest majority of civilians. I have met with base and wing commanders and have asked them to inform me of any pay issues their staff are experiencing. To date I have been provided spread sheets of Phoenix problems by 7 base or wing commanders, we then are able to address the most egregious situations immediately. 
  • Minister Sajjan is briefed and engaged on Phoenix issues. A dashboard is provided weekly to his staff on Phoenix data.

The department is playing an active role on various inter-departmental governance committees and forums such as the UMCC Communication Subcommittee and the Data, Report and Analytics Working Group, and is fully participating in the OAG audits on the Phoenix Pay Problems and the Pay Modernization Project.

DND recognizes the role bargaining agents can play to address their member’s needs and as such we are treating them as a key partner. Bargaining agents have appreciated our regular consultations and granting of direct access to our compensation team as a best practice across government in employee support.

Recognising our operational employees could not necessarily utilise PSPC pay and call centre services, DND implemented in February 2017, a robust escalation process with a dedicated unit to address critical and basic pay cases to ensure no employee goes without pay. This unit allows for consistent receipt, tracking and reporting of cases. As well, the department established an out of pocket claims and priority payments unit for non-basic pay in October 2016 and June 2017 respectively.

We are working collaboratively and offering support to PSPC, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)/OCHRO and other departments on a whole-of-government solution to address key operational issues. For example, the department:

  • Validated and updated DND’s data in preparation for the implementation of the Collective Agreements to 98% accuracy;
  • Engaged with Correctional Services Canada, to establish a satellite pay office in February 2017;
  • Provided expertise and senior level resources from our ADM (Mat) group to support PSPC’s recently started Project Management Office; and
  • Continue to work with other operational departments and agencies such as DFO, VAC and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to identify common issues and share best practices and solutions.

Department of National Defence Human Resources to Pay Integrated Action Plan

To align and support the upcoming PSPC-TBS Human Resources (HR) to Pay Integrated Plan, DND is enhancing its own Action Plan along three pillars: People, Process, and Technology/Tools, which is further detailed in Annex A. Our plan will augment the PSPC-TBS plan while addressing our unique work environment and pay requirements.

  • People : Equipping employees and managers with information and know-how and increasing our HR and Compensation Advisor capacity to input and process pay in a timely manner. Growing to 35 compensation advisors by April 2018.
    • Compensation advisors that have been integrated in PSPC will continue to address high-volume, high-impact cases such as entitlements and actings.
  • Process: collaborating with OCHRO and PSPC to build and implement the HR to Pay process improvements.
    • Performing root cause analysis to inform the streamlining and improvement of HR processes (classification, e-staffing and staffing) that directly impact compensation.
    • Addressing data integrity and timely integration of information.
    • Assessing and revising the Common HR Business Processes (CHRBP) to eliminate unnecessary steps that impede pay.
    • Monitoring and measuring both the quality and timeliness of our input into Phoenix.
    • Concentrated effort being applied on PAR rejections to further reduce from 11% - two keys areas being targeted are 1. Process changes and 2. Completeness and accuracy of information.
  • Technology/Tools: Advocating for greater and enhanced access to the pay system and proposing required system changes to meet departmental specific needs.
    • In particular, working with PSPC for a system fix to eliminate approximately 2,200 actings backlog pertaining to Firefighters (FR).
    • Our dedicated communications team ensures timely transmission of information including targeted weekly updates on the Defence Team News.
    • Enhancing our existing communication with the production of instructional videos and pop-up messages that promote action on the part of managers and employees aimed at improving the timeliness and accuracy of pay.

Moving forward

Although DND has made significant strides to support our employees to date, we recognize that more work is required. We continue to advocate for:

  • greater access to the pay system to resolve employees’ pay issues directly and holistically;
  • external access to the pay system for employees who are on various leaves with no means to access and assess their pay situations; and
  • partnering with other operational departments to address common issues and develop solutions.

In closing, DND has been seized with resolving pay issues at the individual, local, and national levels by staffing dedicated compensation teams, participating in governance committees and working groups at all levels, providing project management expertise support to PSPC’s PMO, working with bargaining agents and communicating with staff on a constant basis.

You can count on my continued collaboration, as John Forster did before me, with the DM community to develop solutions, and we are committed to taking every step necessary to ensure the timely resolution of pay issues.

Sincerely,

Jody Thomas

Enclosures: Annex A: DND HR to Pay Integrated Plan

c.c.: The Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, PC, OMM, MSM, CD, MP, Minister of National Defence
Yaprak Baltacioğlu, Secretary of the Treasury Board
Les Linklater, Associate Deputy Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada
Treasury Board Secretariat
Catrina Tapley, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Operations), Privy Council Office

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