Novopay 'play nice' memo angers principals

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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Outraged principals are hitting back at the New Zealand School Trustees Association, after a memo was sent out asking principals, board members and support staff to play nice with Novopay helpdesk operators.

NZSTA service delivery manager Colin Davies sent a memorandum to school boards on Wednesday outlining some of the remedial steps being taken to fix the widespread Novopay debacle and asking for consideration when dealing with Novopay staff.

In it he urged frustrated teachers and other education staff to "be a little more considerate to those in the Novopay and ministry helpdesks".

But Waikato Principals Association president John Coulam said he thought the statement was uncalled for and the NZSTA should be focusing on doing a lot more to show their support for schools.

He said along with frustration over pay errors, staff were struggling through 20-plus minutes on hold with Novopay, only to be passed on to people who did not have "sufficient training" to handle their problem and then chucked in a new waiting list to talk to a supervisor.

But Mr Davies stands by his statement, and reiterates that the people in the call centre are not the ones to be criticised.

"They're frontline troops," he said. "They're getting the brunt of the frustration that's coming through from the boards of trustees and principals and support staff.

"I've heard they've been getting a rough time and they're trying to do a job and it's not their fault the system's not working.

"I met up with some of the helpdesk people and they explained to me that they were concerned that they were getting the brunt of all this and clearly there were some calls where people had reached the end of their tether.

"What I'm saying is it's higher in the chain that actually warrants that sort of tension."

NZSTA president Lorraine Kerr said although she understood schools' frustration, she backed Mr Davies, saying that all his message was conveying was "don't shoot the messenger".

But Mr Coulam, who is also principal at Marion Catholic School, said it was not good enough as six months down the track from Novopay's introduction there were still problems, with 15 staff being paid incorrectly at his school last week.

"It's an absolute shambles. Those stories, I'm hearing from principals every second day . . .

"This has gone on for far too long," he said.

Ongoing issues were leading to "horrendous" stress levels among staff, with payroll officers working long hours and giving up weekends and public holidays to try and fix the bungles made by the flawed system.

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Mr Davies said the NZSTA was looking forward to the results of the impending inquiry, as the current situation was not good for anyone.

Mr Coulam backed the move from the New Zealand Principals' Federation to move the deadline for National Standards data, annual plans and charters back a month from March 1 to April 1, to allow school staff to catch up on missed work because of Novopay delays.

"That will be one gesture of goodwill from the ministry," he said.

GO EASY ON NOVOPAY STAFF

"Some consideration please: Firstly I am fully aware of the frustrations felt by you and your staff on having to address the issues that have faced your school and your staff but can we be a little more considerate to those in the Novopay and ministry helpdesks.

"These frontline people are facing the barrage and trying to manage and resolve your calls and emails in very trying circumstances. Please remember that the problems are not of their making; that sits at higher levels." NZSTA service delivery manager Colin Davies

- Waikato Times

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