Teachers struggle with system

Pay might not be coming before Christmas for many West Auckland teachers and support staff thanks to ongoing issues with the botched Novopay system.

Donna Armitage from Kelston Primary School is fed up.

The Massey resident hasn't been given her entitlement for sick pay and has four days owing to her.

"It's so frustrating not getting answers. I just want it all fixed up," the teacher aide says.

"It's not good enough. Christmas is just around the corner and it's really stressful."

There have been more than 8000 logged errors since Novopay was introduced by the Education Ministry in August. They include overpayments, underpayments and sometimes no payments at all.

Relief teacher Ron Elma from Te Atatu Peninsula has been waiting more than two months to receive money for two days' work he did at Oratia District School at the beginning of September.

He is a relieving teacher at four Auckland schools from Oratia to Albany.

"The frustrating thing for teachers is we can't contact Novopay directly - they won't talk to us," he says.

"We're at our wits' end. I dread payday when I go to check my pay slip. It's been a nightmare."

Australian firm Talent2, which runs Novopay under a $100 million contract with the ministry, is facing penalties of $50,000 each time the system botches the fortnightly payroll cycle.

The ministry says transactions from Novopay's early pay periods have been cleared and schools will be reimbursed for additional audit costs related to the new payroll system.

While it's hoped Novopay will sort issues out within the next week, Kelston Primary principal Cliff Hughes says the reality is many teachers will need a handout from the school.

"The school is standing by with cheques on hand which isn't good for us but what else do we do?

"We don't want them starving or going without over the Christmas period," he says.

Education Ministry group manager Rebecca Elvy says clearing all the early transactions is an important step toward a much improved payroll system for schools.

"We recognise errors in Novopay's staffing and payroll reports could create extra auditing work and therefore costs to schools as part of their annual financial audit," she says.

The Education Ministry faced further controversy when it announced its decision to restructure its Payroll Services Unit.

Labour's state services spokesman Chris Hipkins says the decision to reduce personnel in the payroll team from 23 to 14 is "mind-bogglingly stupid".

"Novopay continues to be a debacle.

"Now in their infinite wisdom the Ministry of Education has decided to reduce personnel in the payroll team ... they can't be serious.

"These staff need to be focused on fixing the Novopay mess, not wondering if they are still going to have a job in the New Year."

Western Leader