Ministry postpones payroll unit job cuts as staff put in long hours

Last updated 08:15 28/11/2012

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The Education Ministry has delayed a review of its payroll unit after criticism that it was "insensitive" in informing staff of job cuts while they are putting in long hours dealing with the botched Novopay system.

Staff at the ministry's payroll services unit were given a restructuring proposal a couple of weeks ago that would reduce the number of positions from 23 to 14.

The Public Service Association fought against the review, saying it was illogical and insensitive while staff were putting in long, stressful hours to help solve Novopay teething problems. It requested the review be delayed.

A ministry spokesman confirmed yesterday that the review would be delayed at least until April, after feedback from staff.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said it was a "victory for common sense" that the review would wait until Novopay was running smoothly.

"It's a shame that staff had to be put through unnecessary stress, but it's good to see the ministry acknowledging the extraordinarily poor timing of the review and agreeing to put it on the back burner for a while."

Associate Education Minister Craig Foss said last night: "The shift to an online payroll system is a significant change for payroll administrators and I appreciate their perseverance during this transition period. I'm also encouraged to see that almost 90 per cent of schools have now completed their end-of-year processing."

His comments came after he admitted in Parliament yesterday that he never saw results of a survey of trial Novopay users that found only 37 per cent believed they were ready for its introduction.

He told the House the pay system had already been signed off two months before the survey results came out, and he ordered it to go live in August on recommendations from his advisers.

"I constantly sought assurance from the Ministry of Education and therefore the Novopay board that the system was ready to go live. They recommended it was so," he said.

Labour associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins, who questioned Mr Foss in Parliament, said not checking results before launching the Novopay was "negligence, plain and simple".

"Those results were damning. Of the 731 trial users surveyed by the Ministry of Education, fewer than 4 out of 10 felt they were ready for the new system to go live, and less than half could see any benefit coming from Novopay."

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- The Dominion Post

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