Off to court as teacher's pay 'rounded' to 1c

TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2013

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Nine of the worst-hit teachers in the Novopay fiasco will lay their financial situations bare in court in a bid to prove the education secretary has broken the law.

It comes as possibly Novopay's most ridiculous botch-up to date is brought to light - a teacher whose pay cheque came in at just 1c.

The nine teachers' cases are being brought alongside a class action by the Post Primary Teachers' Association on behalf of 18,000 members against Ministry of Education acting secretary Peter Hughes.

The union said it wants the ministry to shoulder the blame for the fiasco.

"It's the Government we are suing, not the person," president Angela Roberts said.

The Novopay payroll system for teachers and school support staff went live last August and has resulted in a series of botch-ups including staff being underpaid, overpaid and not paid at all.

Talent2, the contractor tasked with implementing the system, has drowned in technical difficulties and an increasing backlog of errors, a recent inquiry found.

The plaintiffs include one who was overpaid, affecting their Working for Families tax credits, then underpaid so much they had to cut back mortgage payments. The same teacher was told via a payslip that their permanent position had ended.

Another, on a regular roster, had tax vary wildly from week to week and recently had $1000 randomly deducted from their pay.

"Even my address changes, yet I am absolutely certain I have not moved house."

Another is paying extra interest on their mortgage because their income is less than anticipated.

One could not afford petrol for the car, another had the phone disconnected and one suffered sleep loss, panic and anxiety as a result of Novopay errors.

In addition to the nine plaintiffs, the union says one teacher received 1c for her fortnightly pay, which the ministry described to the union as a common "rounding issue".

The union is fighting to have a statutory declaration from the court that Hughes has breached his Education Act obligations to pay school staff and teachers.

The nine teachers would also be seeking damages for lost wages and the union was seeking additional damages.

Roberts was confident of victory in court.

"We want it to be clear that, when the law is broken by people at the top, they can be held accountable in a court of law just like the rest of us. They have broken the law."

Hughes said yesterday that problems in the system were being sorted and the backlog clearance was "making headway".

The ministry said it "fully recognises and respects the right of the PPTA to take this action".

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"We will be defending it vigorously in court".

- The Dominion Post

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