Frustrations over the federal government’s flawed Phoenix payroll system were on full display in Saint John on Saturday, as members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada took to the streets to demand what they are owed by their employer.     

Isabelle Forest is one of the thousands of workers who have had interruptions in their pay.

“People have children and it's very stressful when you realize on payday that you have half your pay or no pay,” says Forest.

For some it's even worse. Federal employee Amanda Reid has been in an acting position since January and still hasn't been paid.

“What I've been doing is using my credit cards, trying to get by any which way,” says Reid. “It's creating interest charges with my credit card bills come in. It's unnecessary stress.”

Union members aren't just looking to recoup lost wages. In some cases they’re also seeking compensation.

“If you've been short that money for over a year you could've had it in some money-making RRSP or investment,” says PSAC president Robyn Benson. “Then of course we're going to be looking for some sort of damages.”

Last week was Public Service Week, and rallies were held from coast to coast to put the frustrations of federal employees on full display.

“Public Service Week is all about your employer appreciating the work that you do. We had rallies to say we'd rather have a paycheque than a hotdog,” Benson says.

The Phoenix payroll system was purchased by the former Conservative government from IBM. The Liberals implemented it after they came into power.

Workers say there's plenty of blame for both governments.

“The Conservatives had actually laid off over 700 compensation advisors and actually moved a little over 2,000 into other jobs,” says Benson. “The Liberals inherited a bit of a mess, but they continued knowing that there were going to be problems.”

With some employees missing tens of thousands of dollars from their pay, Benson says the government needs to increase the number of people working to correct the problem.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis.