Schools hire staff to sort pay crisis

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 27/02/2013

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Nelson schools have been forced to dip into their operating budgets to hire extra staff to deal with ongoing Novopay problems.

A Nelson Mail survey of primary, intermediate, and secondary schools in the region shows their biggest problem is an inability to resolve issues through the designated Novopay helpdesk - a sign that schools are resigned to the fact there will be further problems with the payroll software down the line.

The survey reveals a lack of faith in Novopay, with some principals calling for a return to the archaic Datacom payroll system and others asking to be left alone to do it themselves.

Nationally, Novopay failures have boiled over with the Post Primary Teachers' Association announcing plans to take legal action against those responsible for continuing Novopay blunders.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the union would seek compensation for the hurt, humiliation and financial suffering caused by the "dysfunctional" payroll system.

"Schools, students, principals and administration staff are at the end of their tether," she said.

The New Zealand Principals' Federation reports that 23 staff nationwide have quit because of the Novopay debacle.

In the Nelson region, schools are having to spend money intended for students' education in an effort to mitigate Novopay problems.

Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said schools were not sufficiently funded to cover staff salaries while the Ministry of Education wasted money trying to repair a broken Novopay payroll. "I hope that the Government will be seriously looking at another supplier," she said. "We need political recognition that schools are out of pocket.

"Some of the resource being put into trying to assess and possibly fix Novopay need to be put into helping ease this financial burden for schools."

NCG, Birchwood Primary, Garin College and Nelson College have hired, or will soon hire, an extra staff member to deal with compounding payroll issues, stretching already strained financial resources.

Nelson Intermediate School principal Hugh Gully said four new teachers at his school had not been paid yet this year.

Birchwood principal Chris Herrick said Novopay had overpaid staff out of the school's operating budget, causing an overdraft that would have to be covered by funds intended for students' education.

At most of the 14 schools The Nelson Mail spoke to, more than half of the staff had been affected by Novopay errors.

Nine schools were owed money, and all reported that their time had been wasted trying to resolve problems by phone or online.

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Staff at Parklands School in Motueka have spent an additional 340 hours on payroll tasks since Novopay was introduced last year.

Parents of students at that school have become so fed up with the system, which they see as detracting from their children's learning, that they have organised a "learning" strike.

This Friday parents will take over the teaching at Parklands while pupils carry picket signs, in solidarity with frustrated staff.

- Nelson

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