News in Brief

A look at news, facts and figures shaping the world of payroll professionals

Public Service Alliance of Canada complains of federal payroll problems

› OTTAWA — A union representing federal public-sector workers says the federal government needs to slow down its transfer of payroll files to a new payroll system until problems are fixed.

In an online statement to its members, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said insufficient staff and training, as well as flaws with a new payroll system, have resulted in many federal government workers not being paid accurately or on time.

“Problems at the pay centre have exploded since the new Phoenix system has come on line,” PSAC said. 

“Pay centre staff are experiencing constant workplace stress, and the problems just seem to be getting worse. Many of the workers employed there are either on sick leave or actively looking for other work.” 

The PSAC statement did not indicate how many workers have had pay problems, but media reports indicate that hundreds of public servants have been affected. 

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), the department responsible for paying federal workers, acknowledges that there have been some payroll issues, including workers waiting too long to be paid, some workers not being paid for overtime, shift premiums or promotions, and Records of Employment not being issued quickly enough. 
It also admits that some workers have complained that they cannot get through to phone operators at the government’s centralized pay centre to enquire about payroll concerns and that the workload for staff at the pay centre has been increasing.

On its website, PWGSC says it is hiring additional staff for the pay centre and fixing issues with the Phoenix payroll system to deal with the problems.

“As with any major information technology implementation, we have encountered some issues and we are taking action to address them,” the PWGSC website states.

The Phoenix pay system is replacing the government’s previous payroll system, which PWGSC says is more than 40 years old and too difficult to maintain. 

The government began rolling out the Phoenix system in February, moving payroll files for workers in 34 of its departments, agencies and Crown Corporations to it. 

By the end of April, PWGSC planned to transfer the files for workers in the remaining 67 government bodies to Phoenix. 
The change is part of an overhaul of federal payroll services that began in 2009. 

It also includes the consolidation of payroll services for federal departments, agencies and Crown Corporations at a new pay centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick.

Ontario Labour Ministry recovers wages owed to interns

› TORONTO — The Ontario Labour Ministry says it has recovered nearly $140,000 in wages owed to interns who worked at workplaces across the province.

The action stems from an Employment Standards inspection blitz that the ministry carried out from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 last year to find out if employers with internship programs were complying with rules for minimum wage, statutory holiday, vacation pay and other standards. 

The ministry’s investigation of 123 workplaces believed to have internship programs found that 77 had interns at the time of the inspection. 

Of the 77, 18 did not meet Employment Standards requirements, 18 were complying with the rules and 41 had intern programs that were exempt from Employment Standards rules.

The ministry says the most common violations it found during the blitz related to vacation time and pay, statutory holiday pay, minimum wage, wage statements and record keeping.

“The blitz shows us there are still employers who don’t understand or decide not to follow the rules, and we will continue to work to level the playing field for those that do follow the rules,” said Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.

Average weekly earnings up slightly in February: StatsCan

› OTTAWA — Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $954 in February, up slightly from $950.59 in January, Statistics Canada reports. 

Statistics Canada revised the January numbers from the previously reported $953. 

On a year-over-year basis, weekly earnings increased 0.4 per cent in February. 

The increase in weekly earnings during the 12 months to February reflected a number of factors, including wage growth, changes in the composition of employment by industry, occupation and level of job experience, as well as average hours worked per week. 

Non-farm payroll employees worked an average of 32.9 hours a week in February, unchanged from the hours reported for January, said Statistics Canada.  

Year-over-year earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in February in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. 

They declined in Alberta and were little changed in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan, said Statistics Canada. 

Unemployment rate stays at 7.1 per cent in April: StatsCan

› OTTAWA — Canada’s economy lost about 2,100 jobs in April, but the country’s unemployment rate remained at 7.1 per cent, Statistics Canada reports. 

Industries where employment declined included manufacturing and business, building and other support services. 

Employment increased in industries such as wholesale and retail trade and accommodation and food services.

On a provincial basis, Newfoundland and Labrador continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 12.5 per cent, but it was down from 13.1 per cent in March. 

The unemployment rate also went down in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. B.C. had the lowest provincial unemployment rate at 5.8 per cent. 

The unemployment rate went up in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. In Quebec, the rate remained unchanged at 7.5 per cent.

In the United States, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the American economy added 160,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.0 per cent.

Schedule job interviews for mid-morning: Survey

› MENLO PARK, Calif. — Payroll workers and others looking for a new job may want to try to schedule their interviews for mid-morning and avoid the end of the day, a recent survey finds.

The survey from staffing firm Accountemps found that 61 per cent of CFOs interviewed said they believe the most productive time for conducting hiring interviews is between 9 and 11 in the morning. Only seven per cent think 3 and later in the afternoon is a good time.

The survey includes responses from more than 2,200 CFOs from more than 20 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

“Mid-morning is an ideal time for a job interview because it gives the interviewer time to set daily priorities and settle into his or her day before the meeting,” said Bill Driscoll, district president for Accountemps.

“Avoid scheduling an interview late in the afternoon when fatigue sets in.” 

He said “late afternoon is also the time when interviewers may start shifting their focus to personal priorities.”

The research also found that the first few minutes of a job interview could be the most telling. Sixty per cent of CFOs say that they form an opinion of candidates within the first 15 minutes. 

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