For the past eight months, Jessica Lepage has been pondering the idea that she would not be able to afford tuition which was due in February of this year, due to a glitch that has plagued the federal government’s new Phoenix pay system.
“I’m expecting this much money, so I spend accordingly and then it turns up to pay day and there was no money in my bank account,” said Lepage.
She is studying for a diploma in the pre-health program at Algonquin and works at the Public Health Agency of Canada, but has been receiving little pay since the beginning of July 2016. Since January of this year, her pay has been stable. However the worry that pay problems may arise again is an added weight on her shoulders.
Lepage is just one of at least 80 college students who has received inadequate pay from their government positions. These students are just a fraction of the thousands of backlogged cases still pending a proper resolution, according to Public Service and Procurement Canada.
The Phoenix pay system was built under the Conservative leadership to improve pay methods for its federal employees. It was expected to save the country $50 million a year after its debut, but since its first roll-out in February 2016, tens of thousands of federal employees like Lepage have been overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.
The college has been prepared to help students affected by the mass glitch, however.
“We have had one student come forward through their student success specialist that I’m aware of who was only receiving 60 per cent of their pay as a result of the Phoenix pay system problems,” said Martine Plouffe, the coordinator of Financial Aid and Student Awards at Algonquin.
Plouffe has helped guide the student affected by the pay system problems to different community organizations such as the Ottawa Community Loan Fund for a long-term financial solution.
“For short-term, immediate solutions, students are encouraged to visit the financial aid office,” said Plouffe.
“We still have a very long road ahead for people that have been waiting so long,” said PSPC Deputy Minister Marie Lemay at a news briefing on March 8.
Lemay says a resolution to the Phoenix fiasco will take several months as more cases of federal employees being underpaid or overpaid across Canada, including students, keep popping up.