John Morris is a visitor services attendant for the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. On July 26, he spent his workday welcoming guests from a far to a fog-covered Wickaninnish Beach. Afterwards, the newlywed changed his forest green Parks Canada uniform for boardshorts and made his way to the Tofino-Ucluelet Junction to join yet another Phoenix pay system protest. The West Coast resident went more than six months without receiving any pay. At one point, he claims he was owed about $14,000. To this day, he says he is still owed roughly $9,000 in wages.
“If I didn’t have a wife who didn’t make a regular paycheque and get paid on time, I’m not sure what I would have done,” said Morris.
Hundreds of thousands of federal public service workers have been underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all since the pay system was implemented two years ago. Morris, like many of his co-workers affected by the payroll system, keeps a special folder to track all correspondence he’s had with the Public Services Pay Centre. He said he’s sent hundreds of emails and spent hours on the phone, all to no avail.
Parks staff John Morris is frustrated with the federal pay system.
“I’d say 95 per cent of the time it feels like no one is listening. You go nowhere. Most of the time it feels like it’s just a dead end. It just gets passed on to one person to the next and no one ever gets back to you. I just want to be paid what I’m owed,” he said.
“We just want to see the system corrected. I’d like to see some action as opposed to just lip service we’ve been receiving.”
Josée Tremblay, Parks Canada administrative support staff, brought a sign to the July rally that read: ‘Trudeau while you are surfing, we are suffering’. It was rumoured the Prime Minister and his family were in the area for a third consecutive summer holiday.
“We all work so hard to make this place that he loves enjoyable and we do it with a smile. We do it with love and passion, but we are truly suffering,” said Tremblay.
She went on to tell the Westerly News stories of parks staff breaking down into tears, and not eating or sleeping as a result of the financial stress the federal pay system has caused. She said Parks Canada even brought in a grief counsellor to “talk people off the ledge.”
READ: Report says Phoenix pay advisers not being trained adequately (Vancouver Island Free Daily, Jul. 31, 2018)
READ: Feds considered ‘tiered’ compensation for Phoenix damages (Vancouver Island Free Daily, Aug. 1, 2018)
Phoenix protesters rally at the Tofino-Ucluelet Junction.
Jamey Mills, a representative for the Public Service Alliance of Canada BC Region (PSACBC), said the federal workers union is planning “escalated actions from Coast to Coast”.
They are also pushing for a national inquiry into the Phoenix pay system problem that spans over Harper’s Conservative government and Trudeau’s Liberals.
“This government needs to take accountability for what’s going on. Fix it, replace it, whatever it is. Show us the respect that we deserve because we have continued to go to work,” said Mills, adding that every second Monday is the most stressful day in a public servants career because that’s when they can access the Phoenix pay system to see whether or not they are actually going to get paid on Wednesday.
A message to the office of Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Service and Procurement, was not returned.