Pay centres overwhelmed as Phoenix overpayment deadline approaches – Ottawa

Federal government workers who’ve been overpaid through the troubled Phoenix pay system are voicing frustration with a plan to report the overpayments in order to avoid costly tax implications.

Public Services and Procurement Canada has given public servants until Jan. 31 to declare overpayments.

Under the plan, employees who report by the deadline will only have to pay the net amount they received.

Those who don’t declare the overpayment on time will have to repay the gross overpayment, including tax and other deducted amounts that they never actually received, which for some could add up to thousands of dollars.

Busy signals frustrate workers

But many of those public servants have complained of busy signals or being put on hold indefinitely when calling the Phoenix pay centre.

One woman, who identified herself as Jo JJ, posted a video on YouTube Wednesday of her trying to call the centre to report what she described as a “small overpayment” that predated the 2017 tax year.

“I’ve been trying to call this number for days — about a week already,” she said, holding her cellphone’s speaker to the camera as it beeped.

“As you can hear, it just gets a busy tone and it just hangs up. You can’t even get through to a voice mail, can’t leave a message, nothing.”

Public Services acknowledged the centre is experiencing higher-than-normal call volumes as the deadline approaches and recommends employees fill out an online form instead.

180,000 workers affected by Phoenix 

Other public servants complained that deductions were already being taken from their paycheques for overpayments, even if they didn’t receive any extra pay or had already paid money back.

“I can’t get an explanation why they are taking the money or how much they think I owe,” Lindsey Welsh wrote in a Facebook message.

“I am a single mom so if I had received any extra monies I would definitely notice.”

More than half of all federal public servants — about 180,000 workers — have reported being overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all since the Phoenix pay system went live nearly two years ago.

But those receiving overpayments have been treated as a low priority as the government struggles to ensure employees who are underpaid or not paid get the money they earned.

In some cases, public servants who have moved to jobs in a higher classification have been paid two salaries. Others who have retired continued to receive paycheques after leaving government while some…

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