Executives managing the roll-out of Ottawa’s new computerized pay program, Phoenix, were promised bonuses for hitting multiple performance targets, including keeping the project on schedule.
A spokesman for Public Services and Procurement Canada has confirmed that timeline goals were part of the overall performance pay plan for Phoenix.
“Various elements and deliverables of the project were included among the key performance objectives of numerous executives, including those involved in briefing the minister,” said Pierre-Alain Bujold.
“Only once we have resolved pay issues for public servants will we focus on executive performance pay. No PSPC executives have received performance pay for 2015-16,” Bujold said in an email.
It is not unusual for government departments to pay out bonuses tied to performance.
According to the Treasury Board’s website, Ottawa’s performance management program for executives “encourages excellence in performance by setting clear objectives, evaluating executives’ achievement of results, recognizing and rewarding executives’ performance, and providing a framework for consistency in performance management.”
The website also says “in addition to their base salary, executives may earn performance-based compensation that reflects their level of achievement of objectives and their demonstration of key leadership competencies. Performance-based compensation may be in the form of performance pay, in-range movement (increments within a salary range) or revision of a salary range.”
While no bonuses have been handed out this year in connection with Phoenix, the NDP said the bonuses raise questions about what it calls a “rushed” and “bungled” implementation of the modernized payroll system.
“Phoenix was rolled out in two phases. And one of the critical questions has been, given all of the errors with Phase 1, why did the government rush ahead with the implementation of Phase 2?” said MP Erin Weir, the NDP’s public services and procurement critic after CBC News confirmed some of the terms for bonuses in the department.
“It now appears the implementation might have been rushed and bungled so that people could get bonuses by meeting an artificial deadline,” Weir said.
Since Phoenix was brought online, more than 80,000 public servants have experienced pay problems. Some workers have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.
No government officials have been disciplined for the troubled roll-out of Phoenix, and PSPC says it is not aware of any staff members resigning.
Public Works Minister Judy Foote was not available for an interview.
In a statement, Foote’s office said “the ongoing pay problems are completely unacceptable. We are fully focused on ensuring that government of Canada employees receive the money they have earned as quickly as possible.”
“Executive performance pay is not a priority. Right now, all our resources are being marshalled to help staff who are missing pay,” added spokeswoman Jessica Turner.
One of the largest unions representing public servants is questioning why executives within the federal government are promised bonuses for this type of work at all.
“You’ve got this added incentive, that, ‘Oh I’m going to get paid more if I do this or do that.’ To whose detriment? Obviously more than 80,000 workers’ detriment,” said Chris Aylward, national vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“If I’m a manager and I’m doing my job, I should get paid for the job that I’m doing. If I’m not doing my job, then maybe I shouldn’t be a manager,” Aylward added.
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