Passport crisis cost $14 million in overtime in six months

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The passport crisis has cost $14 million in overtime in six months

Measures put in place to Addressing backlogs caused by the pandemic “are not temporary” and strong demand for passports is expected in 2023, authorities say.

The lines were often long, last June, in front of the Complex Guy-Favreau, in Montreal, where the offices of Service Canada are located.

At the height of the passport crisis last summer, the Government of Canada went into overdrive to reduce the backlog in applications caused by two years of the pandemic and restrictions on international travel. In addition to increasing its workforce, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) says it spent more than $14 million on overtime between June and December 2022.

According to statistics published online, employees in the passport processing network at ESDC worked 184,115 overtime hours between June 20 and December 26. The week with the most overtime worked was June 27 with 10,182 hours, bearing in mind that passport offices were closed on July 1.

In total, the department responsible for processing passport applications and Service Canada offices spent $14,174,744 during this period, spokesperson Maja Stefanovska told Radio-Canada.

According to her, 3,476 employees were paid for overtime between June and December. But, she points out, these employees are not all Passport Program employees, since other ESDC branches have been called upon to contribute to the efforts.

Since October, passport applications have been processed to pre-pandemic service standards, but many people who applied before this moment continued to face long delays.

She would also like to point out that the Passport Program operates on a cost recovery basis through a revolving fund, thus funding all of its operations from the fees charged for passport and security services. other travel documents.

“Overtime is one of several solutions to meet the significant demand for services of passports. Overtime is and will continue to be open for employees contributing to the Passport Program. »

— Maja Stefanovska, spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada

At the height of the crisis last June, many people had to camp outside Service Canada offices, sometimes for days, waiting to get their passport back. In Trois-Rivières, as in other cities in the country, people had to travel hundreds of kilometers to get their passports urgently in Montreal or Quebec.

The high volume of requests, combined with the health and safety measures in place, has resulted in a backlog that has exceeded our capacity to process within service standards, says Ms. Stefanovska.

Since then, the department has increased its staff, simplified processes, expanded access to passport services nationwide, and implemented an improved triage system to provide a client-specific approach by putting people first. with urgent travel needs, she recalls.

Minister Department of International Development, Karina Gould

Since October, passport applications have been processed to pre-pandemic service standards, but many people who applied before then continued to face lengthy delays. deadlines.

On Tuesday, Social Development Minister Karina Gould said the backlog of passport applications is almost eliminated and that 98% of applications that go through ;were accumulated have now been processed.

During the first two years of the pandemic, the number of passport applications was only 20% of the usual volume, which means that three million fewer Canadians renewed their passports or submitted an application, Ms. Stefanovska.

She also estimates that the high demand for passports will persist until 2023, especially since the first passports valid for 10 years which were issued in July 2013 will expire this year.

According to Ms. Stefanovska, the total volume of passport applications forecast for 2022-2023 is now 4.3 million, 2 million more than normal.

“Any measures taken to address backlogs caused by the pandemic are not temporary, but will continue to be leveraged as needed.

— Maja Stefanovska, spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada

According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the union representing public servants, several employees of the Canada Revenue Agency and Service Canada have been called upon to work in other departments during the pandemic.

Since October, passport applications have been processed according to service standards that applied before the pandemic.

Several of these employees were not replaced […] some remained in their new position […] so we were short of staff at the beginning of the summer of 2021, says Yvon Barrière, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President.

Thus, between May and September, some employees worked more than 12 and 16 hours a day. People went to the office at 7 a.m. and stayed until 1 a.m., explains to Radio-Canada Mr. Barrière.

According to him, overtime is not mandatory, but the Passport Program officers rolled up their sleeves and did a really good job of providing good service to citizens and compensating for the delays.

Because if they had worked 37.5 hours a week would still be there today. There would not be a large number of planes that would have taken off from Montreal or Toronto, he concludes.

With information from La Presse canadienne

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