News in Brief

Senate attempts move away from beleaguered Phoenix pay system | Salary increases to average 2.4 per cent in 2018: Report | Average weekly earnings up in August: StatsCan | ADP launches new report on labour market trends | NYC bans questions on salary history



Senate attempts move away from beleaguered Phoenix pay system

› OTTAWA — The Senate of Canada is seeking to move away from the federal government’s Phoenix pay system and find its own external service provider.

In October, the Senate published a request for proposals (RFP) for a service provider to take responsibility for payroll processing and pension benefit payments for current and retired senators, and senators’ and Senate administration employees.

“The Senate is seeking to establish corporate systems that are autonomous from the government of Canada and Parliamentary institutions. Payroll activities are the first to be considered in this context,” said a statement of work in the RFP.

The Senate currently uses Phoenix to pay its employees and a private system to compensate senators, including those who are retired.

“The Senate has maintained its own compensation advisors and therefore has been able to manage within the complexities and problems brought about by the new Phoenix system,” the statement said.

The federal government has been struggling with the Phoenix pay system since it began rolling it out in 2016.

At the height of the problems last year, thousands of workers were overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all. The government is still having difficulties processing pay requests on time.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents federal civil servants, said it is concerned and skeptical about the Senate’s plan to hire a private company for its payroll administration.

“If the federal government were to contract out the work of public-service workers, it would mean job losses for those affected by Phoenix and the very people struggling to make the pay system work,” said PSAC in a statement.

“If Phoenix has taught us anything, it is that just buying new software is insufficient. Experienced compensation advisors are required to make the payroll system work, not to mention the requirement of training for working with a particular software program,” it said.

“This is why cutting over 1,000 experienced compensation advisor positions was a key contribution to the creation of the Phoenix debacle.”

PSAC also said it was disappointed that senators are seeking “special privileges” not available to most federal public-sector workers.

“Solutions that will get all public service workers paid correctly and on time should be the primary focus, not a short cut for the privileged few,” it said.

The Senate is the Upper House in Canada’s parliamentary democracy and currently consists of 105 senators.

Salary increases to average 2.4 per cent in 2018: Report

› OTTAWA — Average pay increases for non-unionized employees in Canada are projected to be 2.4 per cent next year, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

In its Compensation Planning Outlook 2018 report, the Conference Board said the increase, while modest, will be slightly higher than the actual increase of 2.2 per cent that occurred earlier this year.

Projected increases for 2018 are highest in the pharmaceutical and chemical products industry, at 2.7 per cent, the report said.

The lowest average increases are expected to occur in the health sector, at an average of 1.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are projected to have the highest increases, ranging from 2.5 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

The report also projects that Alberta and Saskatchewan will have the lowest average base pay increases in the next calendar year — at 2.1 per cent.

“While the Canadian economy is firing on all cylinders this year, growth projections for next year and beyond show a slowing down of the economy,” said Allison Cowan, director, total rewards research at the Conference Board.

“As a result, business leaders continue to exercise caution, keeping a cap on organization spending and, by extension, salary increases,” she said.

The report also looked at the types of professions in highest demand for jobs, finding that IT specialists, management, accounting/finance, engineering and skilled trades were the most sought-after professions.


Average weekly earnings up in August: StatsCan 

› OTTAWA — Average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $974.61 in August, up from $966.19 in July, Statistics Canada reported in October.

On a year-over-year basis, weekly earnings were up 1.7 per cent from August 2016.

Changes in weekly earnings reflect 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 32.8 hours a week in August 2017, up slightly from the 32.7 hours reported for July 2017 and August 2016. 

Year-over-year earnings of non-farm payroll employees increased in nine provinces, with Quebec experiencing the most growth.

Earnings were little changed in Prince Edward Island.


ADP launches new report on labour market trends

› TORONTO — ADP’s research institute has launched a new monthly jobs report that it says will track labour market trends in Canada.

The ADP Canada national employment report provides a monthly snapshot of non-farm payroll employment changes in the country.

ADP Canada said the data for the report, which measures more than two million workers in Canada, comes from actual, anonymous payroll information from its client companies.

“The ADP Canada National Employment Report will offer a new look at payroll data to provide in-depth, actionable insights that will help employers devise more-informed strategies to address complex workforce challenges,” said Holger Kormann, president of ADP Canada. 


NYC bans questions on salary history

› NEW YORK — New legislation in New York City (NYC) prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their salary history during the hiring process.

The city is the first municipality in the United States to enforce such a law.

The municipal government said the ban, which took effect on Oct. 31, will help women and people of colour achieve pay equity with white men.

The law applies to both private- and public-sector employers.

“By removing questions about an applicant’s previous earnings, the law allows applicants who have been systemically underpaid, particularly women and people of color, to negotiate a salary based on their qualifications and earning potential rather than being measured by their previous salary,” stated the government.

In the United States, it said women earn 80 cents for every dollar that men earn.

In NYC, the city government said Black women earn 55 cents for every dollar a white male makes, while Hispanic women earn just 45 cents.

Nationally, it said statistics show that in 2015 Black men earned 73 per cent of white men’s hourly earnings, while for Hispanic men it was 69 per cent.

Besides making it illegal to ask job applicants about their current or prior earnings or benefits, the law also bans employers from asking applicants’ current or former employers or their employees about the applicant’s current or prior earnings or benefits.

Employers are also prohibited from searching public records to learn about an applicant’s current or prior earnings or benefits and from relying on information about the applicant’s current or prior earnings or benefits to set their pay rate.

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