The union that represents correctional officers at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary said it could be a very lean Christmas for many of its members.
Employees who are paid through the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system have been dealing with backlogs and missed cheques for months. James Bloomfield, the regional president for the Union of Correctional Officers, said it's very hard watching his members struggle.
"We have staff in the public service that are worried they can't get their child a gift for Christmas. It's really pathetic at this point," he said.
Bloomfield said during a recent membership meeting, he heard many concerns from his members regarding the Phoenix system. Some said they had issues paying mortgages and facing foreclosure. Other members said they were borrowing money to pay for gas to get to work.
The Phoenix payroll system was initiated in 2016. The federal government hoped by customizing existing software and consolidating its pay operations, they could save Canadians $700 million.
The reality of the change has proven to be quite a different story.
The government has instead spent over $400 million to help stabilize the pay system and the estimated final price tag could top over half a billion dollars.
Bloomfield said both the Conservative and Liberal governments were told by the unions from the start the system would fail. He added how unfair it was to watch people in a high risk work environment not get paid for the work they do.
"A job with already 36 per cent PTSD rates, when you start throwing the financial side of things on top of that, you can see how it would make the problem that much worse," Bloomfield said.
Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback is encouraging people with questions about their pay or benefits to call his office. Hoback said he will try to work with them to resolve the issues, and noted he has already answered many calls from employees.
"In most cases we are having good success, it just takes time," he said.
Hoback said the Conservative government will continue to put pressure on the Liberal government to make changes.
During a commons committee meeting Nov. 21, Marie Lemay, the deputy minister responsible for fixing the system, said there were no plans to scrap the system.
--with files from the Canadian Press.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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