Alternative solution to Phoenix at CRA

April 10, 2018

This message is intended for all members of the Union of Taxation Employees.

Last week, the AFS National Executive and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) issued a message saying that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has confirmed that there is an internal alternative solution regarding the problems related to the Phoenix pay system. They stated that CRA has completed the analysis of its Corporate Administrative Systems (CAS) and established that it has the capacity to pay all of its employees.

Today, I want to share some information with you and the position of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) on this important matter.

Our union and representatives of the AFS Group regularly meet with the employer at the National level on a multitude of topics, including of course updates on payroll issues related to the Phoenix system. At one of these meetings held on March 7, questions were asked as to whether the CRA's CAS systems would be able to independently process pay for all Agency employees. It should be noted that the CRA’s CAS systems are financial and human resources systems and not a payroll system as such. One of the employer's representatives responded that it would be possible to make improvements to CAS to enable it to process employees’ pay. However, he said that this would be a long and complex process and would require a considerable investment in human and financial resources. He also stated that once the new system is in place, a run-in period of six (6) to nine (9) months would be required.

One important thing you should know is that the only federal government body who has the responsibility to pay all of its employees, is Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). In order to allow a government department, or an Agency such as the CRA, to pay its own employees, a change in legislation will have to be made.

To date, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has not asked the federal government to change the legislation in order to give it the mandate to develop the CAS system so that it can process their employees’ payroll.

Our union’s position is that the CRA must ask the federal government to give it such a mandate and change the legislation accordingly, as soon as possible.

We also believe that Mr. Trudeau's government must authorize the CRA to proceed with this project and invest all the necessary human and financial resources to ensure that the project is completed as quickly as possible.

Moreover, we are convinced that it would be much cheaper to do this and that the project would be completed more quickly than waiting for the Phoenix pay system replacement with another pay system in five (5) or six (6) years as the government is now promising in its latest budget.

We believe that this project to improve the CRA’s CAS systems should be considered a pilot project that could be taken over by other departments or agencies while making the necessary adjustments that are unique to each.

The CRA is the largest department in the federal government, but ironically it is the place with the fewest payroll problems. Why?

This is mainly due to two factors:

  • The first is that the CRA can count on the experience and expertise of its own compensation advisors, members of our union, who work in Winnipeg and Ottawa.
  • The second decisive factor is that these compensation advisors use the internal CAS systems, which prove to be very efficient thanks to the automation of several operations.

Our union is aware that such a change will take some time and will require a lot of effort. Rest assured that we will continue to work closely with the Agency to minimize the impact experienced by our members caused by the Phoenix pay system and to find a replacement solution as quickly as possible.

The current situation is unacceptable and has lasted long enough. We are in an exceptional situation which requires us to propose equally exceptional solutions.

In Solidarity,

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees