Archived: Response from Department of Justice

From: Public Services and Procurement Canada

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Mr. Michael Wernick
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
Privy Council Office
80 Wellington Street, suite 332
Ottawa ON K1. 0A3

Dear Mr. Wernick:

Thank you for your letter dated November 2, 2017. I recognize that the impact of the implementation of the Phoenix Pay System has created a very difficult situation, and I appreciate this opportunity to inform you on the ongoing efforts, investments and concrete practical actions that are planned or have been taken by the Department of Justice (JUS) to help stabilize the situation. I remain committed to helping to ensure JUS employees at all levels are paid accurately and on time. More detailed information can be found in Annex A. 

With respect to actions taken thus far by JUS, in February 2016, a centralized unit was established (Trusted Source and Liaison Unit – TSLU) to liaise with the Pay Centre to address ongoing pressures and urgent pay related matters. To help reduce the burden on the Pay Centre, the unit recently re-assumed responsibility for some pay related actions to ensure timely reinstatement or stopping of pay to reduce incidents related to underpayments and overpayments. These responsibilities include: long term leave without pay (stops pay); return from leave without pay (re-starts pay); terminations of employment (stops pay); paid leave in Human resources (HR) system for employees who cannot use self-service (over 1,000 entries per year); correction of critical to pay fields and ensuring Phoenix receives the information; worker’s compensation employer reports (3-day legal obligation is met); and, post-payment verification on behalf of our JUS Finance Branch for payment accuracy and overpayments based on HR regulations. More could be taken on, such as: Disability Insurance/Long Term Disability (DI/LTD) employer reports completion (could be done in five (5) business days with access to additional modules in Phoenix), and providing information to employees on their eligibility to benefits and procedures to follow.

Furthermore, in May 2017, JUS sent four employees with previous experience as compensation advisors on a twelve-week boot camp training with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), to learn how to process pay transactions in Phoenix.  Additionally, over the last year, JUS set up a Departmental Claim Office (DCO). Although this was a Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) led initiative, JUS exercised its full discretion in reimbursing JUS claimants and representing their best interest when examining cases with TBS. Since April 2016, JUS regularly provides emergency salary advances to its employees who had their pay interrupted. The process to access emergency payments has been clearly communicated and will continue to be actively communicated to all JUS employees, along with any relevant and strategic information that can educate our employees on how to best raise pay issues, and on government initiatives meant to address Phoenix Pay System related issues. To date, we have distributed 44 all-staff messages by email and have made them available on our intranet homepage. We have also published 5 infographics and 30 news articles, as part of our weekly internal news bulletin shared with all staff and made accessible on JUS’ intranet site. I also communicated information regularly with members of JUS’ management cadre, for example, at a recent JUS Management Information Session. My CFO and ADM, Management Sector, along with her director of labour relations and compensation have also been attending some of my direct reports management team meetings to listen to concerns and address them, as best as possible. Finally, there have been instances where rather than only being reactive to pay related issues we have taken a proactive approach. For example, in some cases where some of our employees subject to additional compensatory entitlements were experiencing particular pay issues, my TSLU took it upon itself to verify if all of our employees in the same situation found themselves in the same predicament. We were then able to proactively identify issues for our employees, rather than waiting for them to identify the issue themselves, and work towards finding solutions for all affected at once.  

With respect to actions that will be undertaken, JUS is working with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Office, and TBS on the offering of four (4) online Phoenix Pay System training sessions for all parties involved in pay transactions at JUS. These sessions should be made available as of mid-November 2017. JUS is also in the process of establishing an HR-to-Pay Working Group to formalise and facilitate the on-going collaborative work between JUS professionals in the fields of human resources, finance, information technology and communications, with the goal of creating meaningful internal tools to support the timely and accurate pay of JUS employees.

JUS is also working on a pilot project with PSPC to explore and assess the benefits of integrating all data sources relevant to pay (SFT, PeopleSoft, Phoenix, IFMS, Phoenix Discrepancy Reports, and staffing log). This project may include many other benefits such as JUSt-in-time dashboards to inform managers and myself on progress, as well as streamlined accounting, reporting and pay reconciliation activities.

It should be noted that access to the Case Management Tool (CMT) used by the Pay Centre would allow JUS and other departments to better answer enquiries and inform employees of specific progress made on their case. This could potentially reduce the number of calls and enquiries sent to the Pay Centre and would increase the confidence employees have towards the handling of their case. JUS would welcome working on this with partners as part of a way forward option for consideration.

Finally, while we are doing everything we can, given the broader issues, we are making only limited progress. Demands and the number of emerging complex pay issues continue to grow, our employees' confidence in our efforts is steadily declining, and our Trusted Source and Liaison Unit is working at a rate that is not sustainable over the long term. I will be meeting with the team in the coming days, and will be looking to confirm that they are feeling valued, supported and empowered in their work. I will also be looking to reassure them that I know they are doing everything they can to maintain the level of work and meet service objectives. Moreover, I will be emphasizing the fact that I would like for this to continue happening without undue stress to them while maintaining workplace wellness. In the meantime, I put in a request that the agreement that was reached between TBS and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (union) to offer a $4,000 recruitment and retention allowance to compensation advisors at the Pay Centre and in departments not served by the Pay Centre also be extended to members of my TSLU. I am pleased to report that this request has been accepted.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that JUS is committed to continue working with and ensuring it can assist PSPC in any way it can to minimize the impacts of ongoing issues with the Phoenix Pay System.

Yours sincerely,

Me Nathalie G. Drouin, Ad. E.
Deputy Minister of Justice and
Deputy Attorney General of Canada

Annex A: Extensive overview of past and ongoing, as well as future actions to be undertaken by JUS to help stabilize the pay system and ensure our employees are paid accurately and on time.

c.c.: The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada 3

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