Response from Treasury Board Secretariat

From Public Services and Procurement Canada

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 of November 2, 2017. As deputy heads, we have to make sure our organizations stay on top of the pay issues experienced by each and every one of our employees. I am committed to supporting your efforts, in your role as Head of the Public Service, along with the efforts led out of the Privy Council Office, to achieve a sustainable solution.

My management team has been fully engaged since the extent of the problems became clear in the post-launch period. In fact, the entire Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) senior management cadre—comprising the Chief Human Resources Officer and the Comptroller General of Canada, and other functions such as the Chief Information Officer of Canada—has already deployed considerable efforts to help stabilize the pay system and ensure that employees are paid accurately and on time. As a department, we have also developed strategies to support our own employees.

As employer

As soon as Phoenix issues began to emerge, we undertook a series of measures to assess and understand the various concerns raised by deputy heads. The Chief Human Resources Officer, the Comptroller General of Canada and I helped mobilize colleagues and conducted extensive outreach to deputy heads, heads of human resources and chief financial officers to gather feedback, share information, and help ground-truth efforts made to achieve a stable pay system.

In recognition of the central role of bargaining agents in surfacing the myriad pay issues facing employees, and of their ability to suggest practical solutions, in September 2016, the National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and I established an Executive Level Union-Management Consultation Committee on Phoenix (UMCC). The committee meets approximately every four weeks. A number of sub-committees have also been struck to address specific issues. As a whole, our ongoing engagement with unions has improved our understanding of the problem, and led to tangible improvements in how we support employees. For instance, following suggestions made by bargaining agents, in September 2016, TBS established a claims group to centralize and support the effective management of employees’ financial claims related to Phoenix across government. As well, in August 2017, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide temporary incentives to compensation advisors in the core public administration.

The Comptroller General of Canada is advancing efforts to better understand the full picture of costs, past and future, related to pay system transformation. Over the past two years, TBS, along with PCO, has also been performing its traditional challenge function in support of requests for incremental funding, as well as to unpack and validate plans towards a steady state more generally. We are now looking closely at our approach to project management and procurement. We know we need improvements in these areas to ensure we have better systems in place to manage government-wide transformation projects. As a starting point, we have already made significant efforts to articulate lessons learned. For instance, in January 2017, TBS and Public Services and Procurement Canada commissioned Goss Gilroy Inc. to produce a report on Lessons Learned from the Transformation of Pay Administration Initiative, which was made public in October 2017. We have shared these lessons broadly across government.

The Chief Human Resources Officer has led efforts to broaden our understanding of the issues at stake, i.e., that this is more than a pay issue, and that the challenges need to be addressed from a broader human resources management perspective. Stemming from this, we created a new Human Resources (HR) Management Transformation sector within TBS—led by a dedicated Assistant Deputy Minister, in February 2017. Since July 2017, as part of a Public Services and Procurement Canada—TBS Integrated Team, TBS is taking steps to foster a seamless HR-to-Pay continuum. We are directing the changes needed to the systems, policies and processes, and focusing on the change management that will be required government-wide. For instance, TBS is deploying a training strategy to ensure that users have the right knowledge to use both their HR and Phoenix systems. A three-tiered governance committee structure is now also in place to oversee HR-to-Pay implementation. This includes a Deputy Head oversight committee to ensure implementation of direction provided by the Working Group of Ministers on Achieving Steady State for the Pay System, an Assistant Deputy Minister steering committee, and a Director General Coordination Committee.

Finally, we are currently reviewing the role of the Chief Information Officer of the Government of Canada, with the goal of expanding our ability to provide the direction needed to ensure that government-wide IT-enabled initiatives are well planned and executed.

As a department

As a department, we have expanded our compensation unit and hired additional resources to manage internal workload. We provide personalized information, advice, the required forms, as well as liaise with the Pay Centre to escalate issues when needed. We continue to educate and follow up with our managers on their responsibilities with respect to the pay system.

We regularly canvass employees, have mechanisms in place to identify our employees’ pay issues, and continue to work closely with the Pay Centre in resolving them. Our practice is to immediately offer emergency salary advances or priority payments to any employee who was not paid. When requested, these are addressed on an urgent basis, and our compensation liaison team works closely with the Pay Centre to resolve the employee’s pay file. Our department has taken the initiative to process some transactions internally to ensure that our employees are not penalised by the backlog at the Pay Centre (i.e., leave without pay, return from leave, and termination cases in our HR system). We have also taken the responsibility to address and correct employees’ leave entitlements.

Our middle managers are key partners in supporting employees. We provide information and support through multiple channels. For instance, Phoenix updates are a regular feature at our monthly EX Town Halls—where I emphasize the importance of caring, timely, targeted, focused and accessible information sharing. Our Executive Committee and our Labour-Management Consultation Committee are equally seized of these issues.

TBS has contributed expertise to the Public Services and Procurement Canada satellite office in Gatineau by sending two FTEs for a period of over 16 months. We have made the relevant Canada School of Public Service training mandatory. The training developed by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer will also be mandatory for all TBS employees, and one of our resources will be provided as a trainer for other departments in the National Capital Region.

I feel obliged to mention that despite these efforts, our team is still facing challenges to process and correct pay issues. The following improvements would help my internal human resources team better support our employees (these suggestions also reflect recurring requests made by deputies at the Public Service Management Advisory Committee, which I co-chair):

  • dedicated access to a coach, a verifier and a compensation advisor to complete accounts in a timely matter
  • better access to the case management tool
  • ability to view Compensation Web Applications Pay Stub for all employees
  • access to the archive data in the regional pay system

In closing, the TBS senior management team remains committed to ensuring that all public service employees are paid accurately, in support of your own efforts as Head of the Public Service, and of the efforts of the Working Group of Ministers on Achieving Steady State for the Pay System more generally.

Yours sincerely,

Yaprak Baltacıoğlu

c.c.: The Honourable Scott Brison, P.C., M.P.

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