Life through the eyes of a federal employee in Canada and the failed Phoenix Pay System.

Sophie Splawinski
Apr 18, 2017 · 5 min read

April 18th, 2017

Here’s a question: Would you ever work for a company that told you they may not pay you for the job?

So many of us already do. The following is a glimpse into the hell that hundreds of thousands of Canadian federal employees have gone through over the past year and then some. Please share this. There has been so little media coverage, there has been no public outcry. We need your help. Thank you.

Now, Imagine you have a job you spent years working towards. That job requires you to work days, nights, weekends, holidays, and overtimes. But you do it because you enjoy it and it gives you the chance to provide for your kids or take that trip you always wanted or help provide care and support for those closest to you.

Imagine one day your boss tells you that, due to internal issues, your pay may be wrong. They promise you it will be fixed. They say it isn’t “that bad” and isn’t affecting many people, which is also what they tell the media. Months go by without answers. You realize that most of your co-workers are in similar situations: your friend on maternity leave isn’t paid for months and is scrambling to pay her mortgage while caring for a newborn. Your other friend got engaged this year but can’t plan her wedding because she is owed tens of thousands of dollars. Yearly raises come and go without being implemented. Co-workers getting called in for overtimes aren’t being paid for their work. Everyone has questions, no one has answers. So where can you find answers?

You ask your manager when your pay may be fixed, they have no answer. When you try to reach someone who has access to your file, you realize that there is no one. All the personnel responsible for pay in your department were fired to make way for this new pay system. Those now responsible no longer take calls from employees. The closest you can get is to call a number to what they call a “satellite office” where someone will take notes on your situation, without access to your file, and it ends there. So what are you told?

“We don’t know.”

“They’re working on the problem.”

“There is no set date in the foreseeable future for when your pay will be fixed.”


“Hang in there.”

Essentially, you are alone.

Welcome to my life as an employee of the Canadian Federal Government. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop because you aren’t paid. Mortgages don’t stop coming in. Neither do car payments, credit card bills, phone bills, school bills, camp bills, sport bills, support payments, food bills, hydro bills, elderly care bills… the list goes on and on. But you, as an employee, are expected to continue living on an inadequate cheque while still going into work every day, night, weekend, or holiday and to “hang in there”. You find yourself falling deeper and deeper into debt through no fault of your own. You scramble to find the money to sign your kids up to summer camp because you work and can’t be home to watch them. You default on car payments, mortgage payments, credit card bills, and slowly watch your credit score plummet because of your employer. You put aside that trip you’ve been dreaming of, you put aside thinking of having another baby, you put aside putting away for your kids’ college fund. You work hard and yet you suffer because no one hears your cries for help, no one is there to listen, and no one seems to care. There is no way out, there is no course of action you can take.

Then tax season comes around, and though you are owed hundreds, or thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, you are told that you are required to pay your taxes on time. So you are paying the same people who owe you much more than you owe them. Oh, and by the way, if you fail to pay your taxes on time, you will be charged interest.

This shouldn’t be allowed to happen, and there is a passage from the Canadian Labor Code with regards to payment of wages that discusses the very topic:

247 Except as otherwise provided by or under this Part, an employer shall

· (a) pay to any employee any wages to which the employee is entitled on the regular pay-day of the employee as established by the practice of the employer; and

· (b) pay any wages or other amounts to which the employee is entitled under this Part within thirty days from the time when the entitlement to the wages or other amounts arose.

  • 1977–78, c. 27, s. 21.

Thirty days? There are people who have been waiting over eighteen months for wages owed to them. There are people who have come home from months at sea protecting our borders to a cold, dark house because their power had been shut off due to lack of payment. These are two examples, there are many more heartbreaking stories; too numerous to list.

Tell me, would you work for a company that can’t promise to pay you?

Look around you, I’m sure you know someone affected by this. There are still over 80,000 of us. Give us a voice. Stand up for us, help us let all Canadians know how bad things really are. Finally, if you are reading this and are affected by Phoenix, I guess all I can say is: “Hang in there. You’re definitely not alone.”

-Depressed Phoenix Victim


Remaining cases that haven’t been paid as of today’s date (estimate):

“ Disability pay requests, however, are still being handled too slowly and the number of pay transactions that were still awaiting processing for more than 20 days remained virtually stagnant since early March at about 284,000, representing a nearly three-month backlog.”

Please see last paragraph of this article:

Promises that pay would be fixed (but never happened):

Canadian labor code website:

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