Jenny Touchie works as a First Nations Liaison for the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. She loves her job, she tells the Westerly News outside the Wya Point Resort pit stop at the Tofino-Ucluelet Junction.
“When I’m getting paid, I genuinely love what I do,” said Touchie. “I get to work with our First Nations partners on co-operative management and on economic development initiatives and training and capacity building. I find a lot of personal satisfaction in the job that I do.”
That’s why, even after not receiving an accurate paycheque since November of 2016, she hasn’t quit.
“And, because I’m owed so much money, if I were to leave now, I would worry about the length of time it would take for me to get that money once I left the system.”
Touchie claims she is owed $30,776.32 for outstanding wages and extra duty pay. In conjunction with the Phoenix pay system roll out two years ago, she started a running spreadsheet to track how much she should have been paid versus what she was actually paid.
“This past week, I wasn’t paid at all so I entered that in there. This is just my new normal, being underpaid.”
To get by with monthly expenses, Touchie has pretty much maxed-out her line of credit. At one point, she had to ask for extensions on her phone and hydro bills because she didn’t have enough money in her account. She said the stress has caused such debilitating mental issues that it’s impacting every area of her personal life.
“I’m at the point where I’m just ready to go over the edge.”
Her frustrations are compounded by the lack of support she gets from her Union and the pay centre.
“It’s unbelievable that this is Canada. You would never expect that, when you sign a government contract, that you wouldn’t get paid and, without warning, your entire cheque can be taken from you and you are left with nothing. You just do not expect that working in Canada. No other employer would get away with that, but somehow we’re stuck in the middle.”
Recently, Touchie reached out to MP Gord Johns to help with her file. Johns said he hand-delivered a letter regarding Jenny Touchie to the Minister of Public Service and Procurement in the House of Commons. John’s letter gave a full summary of Touchie’s case, and a plea to resolve her pay crisis immediately. The Honourable Carla Qualtrough assured Johns that Touchie would get paid on her next paycheque.
“It sounds like they are committed to fixing it. I’m pleased that they responded so quickly and I’m staying on it. Finally we are seeing some response from the government, but we’ve had to go to the highest level. We’ve had to go with me kicking and screaming, basically,” said Johns. He went on to say that he would do the same for any employee that works for the government in the Courtenay-Alberni riding that is having payroll issues.
“Whether it be Jenny or any other employee, I will go to bat for them. This is unacceptable. It really upsets me that someone who is committed to serving Canadians is not getting paid and they’ve done the work.”
Touchie would like to see a personal pay audit carried out and she recommends authorizing pay at the local level until Phoenix is phased out.
“I want someone to sit down and look at all of the employment contracts I signed and look at all of the pay periods and ensure that I am paid properly for each one. I want that ability to have that one-on-one discussion with someone whose actually gone through every single pay period since this all started.”
Even amid her own financial hardship, Touchie shows empathy for all her fellow civil servants who can’t pay their mortgage or whose car was repossessed as a result of Phoenix.
“In some sick way, I feel lucky that I am able to make it paycheque to paycheque. There are so many people out there that are struggling just like I am and have it way worse. That’s just not right. It’s incredibly unfair that people are put in this situation,” she said.
After this article went to press on June 27, Touchie said in an email to the Westerly that her last paycheque came through. She went on to say that her paperwork is being re-entered and “hopefully things will get straightened out starting in July.”
- Fixing Phoenix to take five years, billions to fix, report says (Canadian Press, Jun. 29, 2018)
- Fed up federal employees rally in Kelowna (Kelowna Capital News, Feb. 28, 2018)