There are increasing doubts the much federal government will be able to clear the backlog of payment arrears to bureaucrats from its much criticized Phoenix pay system by Oct. 31 as promised.

“We are driving very hard toward our original target of October 31, and we believe the bulk of our backlog will be eliminated by this date,” Marie Lemay, deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said in a statement on a government Web site this week.

“We have now closed more than 50,000 employee cases in our backlog, which is close to 62 per cent of our original workload … However, it is possible that we will have a number of cases that will require additional time.

“As we open cases, we are seeing that a large number of those left in the backlog are complicated and require time-consuming manual calculations. We will have a dedicated team of our most experienced compensation advisors to quickly address any cases that may remain after October 31.

“I can assure you that we are working extremely hard; our compensation advisors are regularly putting in evenings, weekends and holidays. Everyone is fully committed to the task at hand.”

The contract to develop and operate the Phoenix payment system was awarded to IBM in 2011 after a lengthy RFP process.
Also this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Canadian Labour Congress’ National Young Workers Summit in Ottawa that the delays are  “unacceptable challenges, people not getting paid for work they’ve done.” But, he added, “we are working as best we can. We’ve put more resources in to try and respond to the most pressing challenges. We’re working very hard to fix it. The challenge was there was a change made (in the system) without the kind of support invested in and we’re picking up the pieces.”

He also admitted his government didn’t respond as fast as could to the problems.

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