This bird still stuck in the ashes

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Since going on unpaid leave in April, Jane has amassed a stack of paperwork and correspondence, in her efforts to get a single document from the pay system to allow her to claim EI benefits. (Jessica Davey-Quantick/NNSL photo)

The ongoing Phoenix pay mess may seem abstract to some but one federal employee shared a story last week that illustrates how it’s turning lives upside down.

The system was implemented in February 2016 by streamlining all federal pay through an office in Miramichi, N.B. A glitch in the system led to all sorts of pay issues for hundreds of thousands of federal employees. People weren’t paid when they should have been, were paid when they shouldn’t have been and waited for months to see adjustments to pay for parental leave, overtime, long-term disability and modifications of duties.

Jane, who spoke to Yellowknifer last week, saw a few of these problems happen at once. Yellowknifer didn’t use Jane’s real name, as her department warned telling her extraordinary story to the media could be a conflict with the government’s code of ethics.

Her daughter died suddenly in December. In April, her nurse practitioner advised she go on disability leave to deal with the grief. In the meantime, the Phoenix pay system continued to pay her despite the fact she was on leave, while the record of employment she needed to apply for disability pay took months to arrive – and when it did, it was wrong. She had no choice but to use the money she was mistakenly being paid in order to make ends meet.

In mid-July the pay stopped coming and there was still no word on when her disability pay would kick in. Jane needed money to pay her mortgage and nowhere to draw that money from. Now, she sits in a precarious position where she has no money coming in and a Damocles Sword hanging over her head if the feds decide to recoup what has been mistakenly paid to her.

Jane is one of 228,000 people across Canada struggling with pay issues like this. For her, and everybody else with stories like hers, the federal government must commit the resources to rectify the situation without compounding damage that’s already been done.

 

Relay for Life too lucrative to cancel

Last August, the Canadian Cancer Society closed its Yellowknife office.

The society believes it can serve residents better through social media than with a physical presence.

Unfortunately, this means there is nobody left in town to organize annual fundraisers Relay for Life and Daffodil Month. So this year, the community missed these events.

Relay for Life, which has been a mainstay in the community since 2003, usually generates more than $100,000. This is an astounding amount of money for about 20,000 Yellowknife residents to raise.

It’s hard to believe the Canadian Cancer Society will drum up enough support to match this without an office in town. Not only that but these events shine a greater spotlight on real cancer survivors and their families. A Facebook page just doesn’t have the same impact.

The Canadian Cancer Society does good work by funding cancer research, prevention strategies and helping those suffering with cancer. Without a human face and boots on the ground, the society is not going to be as effective as it would be. Perhaps it doesn’t need to fund a full office but keeping one full-time person around to organize Relay for Life – an event that so many people in the city love and support – is an investment that will pay back.