Associate Education Minister Craig Foss has slated the Education Ministry for plans to sack nine of the staff dealing with the Novopay debacle once the troubled teachers' payroll system is working well.
"I am utterly flabbergasted by this decision," Mr Foss said.
"Any plan to cut payroll staff numbers is totally out of sync with what the ministry is trying to achieve with the Novopay rollout. It's pretty clear that the ministry's payroll team needs more resources, not fewer."
Union leaders and Opposition MPs also attacked the decision, saying it was the worst possible time to announce job cuts.
Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said the restructuring proposal would cut the number of positions in the ministry's payroll service unit from 23 to 14.
"It claims that the staff will not be needed once Novopay is operating smoothly. The timing of this beggars belief," she said.
Staff in the unit had been putting in long, stressful hours working alongside Novopay trying to pick up the pieces.
"In the face of all this they're now being told they're facing a major restructure and a proposal which will see jobs being disestablished from March next year."
Staff had been given only two weeks to respond to the proposal.
Labour state services spokesman Chris Hipkins said the timing was "mind-bogglingly stupid".
"Thousands of education staff up and down the country are still having problems with their pay, while some aren't getting paid at all.
"The idea that the Ministry of Education would decide now is a good time to create huge uncertainty for the staff tasked with fixing the problem defies belief," he said.
"Maybe the top managers at the Ministry of Education should get their pay via Novopay.
"Perhaps if they went a couple of months without getting paid correctly they'd get serious about sorting this mess out."
Mr Hipkins said the job of the person who authorised the restructuring should be on the line.
Ms Pilott said while payroll staff knew a review was likely at some stage, they had been blindsided by the insensitivity of the timing.
"They feel that their focus on trying to sort out Novopay, especially in the lead-up to the Christmas pay period, will compromise their ability to take part in the review process."
Mr Foss said he was as angry and frustrated as teachers were with the payroll problems.
- The Dominion Post
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