Payroll chaos latest burden for teachers

16:00, Oct 06 2012
kay weeks
FRUSTRATED: Teacher Kay Weeks.

A ''shambolic'' Education Ministry payroll system is threatening to shatter the resilience of Christchurch teachers who are already at war with the Government, principals say.

They say the $29 million Novopay system, implemented in August, is an added burden for Christchurch schools affected by the Government's recent education shake-up, involving closures and mergers.

Since Novopay was introduced, some schools have had to foot the bill when staff were underpaid and in other cases ex-staff members have reappeared on the payroll.

One teacher's payslip showed almost two months' worth of unexplained sick leave and another was still waiting for six days' pay owed from August.

Ann-Marie Garden, acting principal of Yaldhurst Model School, which faces closure, said staff needed to focus on the survival of the school rather than addressing Novopay's mistakes.

“We do not need any of our energies going off in this direction. Right now we are fighting for our school and we don't have the time to be dealing with this," she said.


Novopay staff were “almost impossible” to contact and the school office administrator had spent four hours on the phone on the last day of term trying to solve a pay issue, she said.

The principal of another school listed to close, Ouruhia Model School, said Novopay had been "an added burden at this difficult time".

"It's the last thing we really want at this stage," Mark Ashmore-Smith said. "With all the stresses and teachers who have red-zoned homes and other things, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Jennifer O'Leary, principal of Branston Intermediate, said a number of staff had contemplated resigning because of the new system, which she described as a shambolic mess.

A staff member who had resigned six months ago "suddenly popped up in the payroll again last week" to be paid $5000.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president John Bangma said every school he had spoken to was suffering under the new system and some staff had to default on mortgage payments after being underpaid.

Education Ministry chief information officer Leanne Gibson said Novopay had been briefed on the Christchurch situation, so any issues would be "escalated to ensure quick resolution".

She said "urgent and significant" improvements to the system's call centre were under way and the ministry would reimburse anyone financially disadvantaged.

New Zealand Principals Federation president Paul Drummond, while confident the issue would be resolved, said the ministry should consider financial compensation for the overtime teachers had put in out of goodwill.

"It's in the interests of the ministry to signal to schools that they are grateful for what teachers are doing, thanking them, and that they will find a way for the extra hours and transitions to reimburse schools."

Additional reporting Kelsey Fletcher


A teacher waiting on $1500 pay from August, says the Education Ministry's payroll system is a "slap in the face" for Christchurch schools.

Kay Weeks, 46, has been teaching for 11 years and said she was "totally and utterly confused" by the new Novopay system.

She is owed six days' pay from relieving at Addington School in August and said when she tried to email Novopay she received an automated response saying she was not authorised to access their account.

"It's ridiculous and with everything that has been going on in Christchurch lately it almost feels like a slap in the face for us," she said.

Teachers had supported their students through the earthquakes while battling their own issues and now some were faced with their schools closing - and on top of that "not knowing if they are going to get paid this week or not is just unbelievable".

"There is going to be breaking points for some people," she said.

Weeks believed the ministry launched Novopay before it was ready and said the shambolic transition could not have come at a worse time.

Sunday Star Times