Teacher 'paid' more than $11m an hour

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2012
Sharon Watson
John Hawkins
TOP JOB: Waihopai School teacher aide Sharon Watson shows off her payslip which, if it were true, would make her possibly the highest paid person in the world.

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The extremes of the Novopay debacle have been highlighted by the payslip of one Southland school teacher showing an hourly pay rate of more than $11 million and another teacher fearing he will not be paid before the new year.

Waihopai School teacher aide Sharon Watson, who normally gets paid $18.21 an hour, this week received her payslip which says her hourly rate for 2.71 days of annual leave term time is $11,193,300.

"It was quite exciting," she said.

"I thought, hang on, I don't event know how to say that [number]. I put my glasses on and said, 'no way'."

She went to school the next day and told her work colleagues she was a multi-millionaire.

"I said, 'I am working until lunch time and retiring'."

Problem was, the money never went into her bank account, she said. Ironically, she was actually underpaid "and they stuffed up my sick days".

Confusing matters even further, her payslip also says she is getting paid $59,100 per hour for another 2.71 days of annual leave term time.

The pay of some other teachers at her school had also been inaccurate since Novopay had been introduced, she said.

She believed it was unacceptable and said that it had got so bad it appeared pre-schoolers had been hired to pay the teachers.

Although Mrs Watson's dreams of riches were shortlived, she did receive the pleasant shock of an early morning phone call by a radio station yesterday to say she had won $5000.

Earlier this week another Southland school teacher, Brett Smith, said the Novopay debacle had put a strain on his family's Christmas.

"I won't know until the new year if I've been paid out or not," he said.

As a result, he was being cautious with his plans for the festive season.

He declined to discuss the matter further when contacted yesterday.

Nationwide there have been more than 8000 logged errors in teachers' pay since Novopay was introduced in August. They include overpayments, underpayments, and sometimes no payments at all. Australian firm Talent2 runs Novopay under a $100 million contract with the Ministry of Education.

Ministry chief information officer Leanne Gibson yesterday shed light on the reasons behind the $11 million pay slip of Mrs Watson, saying a payroll processing error this week affected the formatting of school control reports and staff payslips. "It made them unable to be understood. This is why Ms Watson's payslip appeared nonsensical."

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Similar mistakes occurred on other payslips for the same reason, however, no school employee had actually been paid at a rate of millions an hour, she said.

The ministry and Talent2 were working to resolve the Novopay issues, with Ms Gibson saying holiday pay was delayed for a group of staff this week, but that issue was now resolved.

The ministry was very concerned about the impact of the Novopay issues on school staff and their families and were putting measures in place to ensure all employees were paid their due amount before Christmas.

evan.harding@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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