Principals back Novopay legal action

A teacher union's plans to take their Novopay frustrations to court has been applauded by Manawatu school principals whose staff have been logging hundreds of hours in overtime since the faulty payroll system was launched.

The Post Primary Teachers' Association has announced it will be mounting a legal challenge over the teachers' payroll debacle. The union will be seeking compensation for its members for the "hurt and humiliation" caused by the payroll system and options for redress were being investigated, PPTA president Angela Roberts said.

Recompense is on the minds of Manawatu school principals whose staff have logged hundreds of hours in often unpaid overtime as they struggled to come to grips with the payroll system's errors. Schools nationwide were last year asked by the New Zealand Principals' Federation to begin logging the hours they had to spend outside of their normal work time to deal with Novopay. The federation this month found that the extra work had cost schools almost $8 million in overtime.

Feilding High School principal Roger Menzies said the union's move was "highly justified" and called for the responsibility for managing payroll systems to be returned to schools.

"We have got issues coming out of our ears and there's nowhere to go to resolve them.

"I don't mind working through things if you can see there is an end in sight but I've just lost faith in the whole system. The goodwill has run out. I think there should be some kind of recompense."

Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre said his school was paying out overtime "over and above" its budget.

He estimated the school had paid out 120 hours for administrative staff's time from its own budget.

"Certainly more of my time has been spent doing this rather than developing programmes and systems in the school to improve student learning.

"There are a lot of principals, I imagine, who have been doing a lot of administrative-related tasks," Mr Codyre said.

Palmerston North Girls' High principal Melba Scott said staff at the school were logging an extra eight hours a week of additional staff time just to ensure each new pay cycle was correct.

She said errors continued for the school and sometimes took months to be corrected, with most resulting in underpayments to staff.

Queen Elizabeth College principal Michael Houghton estimated payroll staff spent an extra day every pay cycle sorting out Novopay problems.

The PPTA will be looking at a number of legal options following discussions with lawyers while the union has collected data and witness statements.

The minister responsible for resolving Novopay's ongoing problems, Steven Joyce, told press at Parliament yesterday he could understand teachers' frustration but he was unsure what taking the issue to court would achieve.

Manawatu Standard