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Phoenix hit with more woes

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OTTAWA—Civil servants who transfer between federal departments or receive promotions can expect to wait more than six months for their paycheques to follow them through the Phoenix pay system, federal officials say, costing some employees tens of thousands of dollars as they wait—and causing confusion across government.

But the problem is far worse than the Liberals are letting on, with many people now refusing to take promotions and parental leave over fears they'll lose their paycheques entirely, says the union representing a majority of government workers.

The average wait time to process an employee transfer from one department to another was about 136 working days as of mid-January, said Public Services and Procurement Canada, which is responsible for the pay system.

But some government employees have been told it could take up to a year or longer to have their transfers completed.

“We've certainly heard much worse,” said Chris Aylward, national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“We've heard of up to a year, especially when people transfer from one department to another,” he noted.

It is especially frustrating for those who are promoted into higher-paid positions—only to be told they'll have to wait months for pay increases while performing in jobs that often are more stressful.

"We acknowledge that this situation is frustrating and poses challenges, Public Services said in an e-mail.

“However, employees continue to receive their pay from their former department until the transfer of their pay to their new department is complete,” the department noted.

Transfer wait times ballooned over the last year as the government placed a greater priority on ensuring civil servants who were underpaid—or not paid at all—were receiving the remuneration they were owed.

Between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016, prior to the launch of the Phoenix pay system, the average wait time to process an employee transfer from one department to another was just 17 working days, or less than a month, Public Services and Procurement Canada said in an e-mail.

The following year, while the Phoenix system was being brought online, the average wait time to complete pay transfers nearly tripled—to 45 working days.

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