Teachers union critical of new payroll system

The new teachers' national payroll system is under fire from the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)

The new teachers’ national payroll system is under fire from the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA).

“We are concerned that the Novopay system has been unable to meet most of its service targets,” says PPTA president Robin Duff.

“We are relieved that most of our members have been paid correctly but those who haven’t been seem to be in an absolute limbo and are being greatly disadvantaged.

“We are also concerned about the massive increase in workload for principals and support staff and want to know what the timeline is for fixing this, because everyone’s patience is running out. We hope that the second pay cycle will be better.”

Duff says there have been more than 3000 non-process transactions (changes that have occurred between pays, such as sick leave and extra units) that have not been addressed.

"The 3000 transactions that were handed over from Datacom to Novopay for processing have still not been completed. This means that there are many education workers that have money owed to them from before 20 August. This is, of course, a major concern to PPTA and something that is occupying quite a bit of staff time in trying to get our members outstanding pay that they are still owed."

Datacom’s bespoke payroll system has been replaced by Novopay, built by Talent 2. A decision to delay the go-live date for Novopay was made twice during the project.

“Each time, the reason was the challenge and complexity of customising the schools’ payroll to an online service,” says Ministry of Education spokesman Matt Radley. “The schools’ payroll pays 100,000 people a year (it is New Zealand’s largest payroll) on many different terms and conditions. For example, there are 10,000 possible combinations of allowances.”

Novopay cost $29.4 million to develop and implement, with long-run costs of $12.5 million until 2018, he says. “The project is within budget.”

Allan Vester, chairman of the New Zealand Secondary Principals’ Council, says the issues tend to be around the fringes…“situations around leave calculations and relief teachers”.

“Some issues occurred in the process of [them] taking over when the found old mistakes such as leave accruing.”

He confirms that not all teachers got a password to access their pay slips.

“It’s created a hell of a lot of work for staff doing the payroll in some schools.”

Duff says a further problem with the system is that it prevents PPTA officials such as field officers having direct access to Novopay. “This makes it extremely difficult to even follow up on claims. “We are meeting regularly with the ministry and Novopay to ensure these problems are addressed before it results in a massive filing of personal grievances, which is obviously a path we would prefer not to go down.”

Education sources say one of the most frustrating things is that the ministry and Novopay have been insisting throughout that there would be no problems.

“Their training for those busy people in schools who had to manage this was relatively late and obviously not comprehensive,” one says. “The constant denial that there would be problems is doubly frustrating because everyone knew that with a change of this magnitude, involving as it does a shift in technology, a shift between companies, and 2400 users (schools) with 90,000 (sic) end users, could not be flawless.

“A bit of honesty up front about that, and an overt plan for dealing with inevitable problems that included the users would have been much more effective, and they would be getting far less flak right now.”

One of the issues raised has been concern about the change to the rounding system, that has reduced some pays slightly. The concern is that the Ministry or Novopay is pocketing the 0.5 cents difference, a source says.

“Others are concerned simply with the principle that their pay has been reduced without authority.

“In response to the question about teachers finding their pay was 1 or 2 cents less, a Novopay representative reported that the change to Swedish rounding, rather than a simple rounding up, is the culprit. (Swedish rounding is used to calculate a value to the nearest cent.)

Because secondary teachers have 12 steps on the salary scale – each paying a different rate – and various other allowances and payments, this can produce a range of different payments in any pay period.

“If a teacher is underpaid because of the rounding, how will the difference be made up?” the source asks.

Computerworld has been copied in on a letter one principal has written to Education Minister Hekia Parata.

The principal raises 17 issues, including the fact that all the school’s relief teachers were double paid. “To date they have not been notified by Novopay of how to repay this money.

“To date, approximately 80 hours have been spent trying to sort the payroll issues – and we are only a relatively small school. To have my staff waste so much of their time to sort payroll issues which were not of their making . . . to have them being harangued by other staff who are not being paid correctly, are being docked pay, and cannot open their pay slips, is an intolerable situation.”

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