Editorial: No, no, no Novopay

Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012

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OPINION: The good news is your pay slip says you're being paid $11.193 million an hour.

The bad news is, it's a Novopay slip.

In a perfect world, teachers' payslips wouldn't ever be fiction. Even in a conventionally imperfect world, they wouldn't be quite as frequently and disastrously messed-up as they have been by the Novopay system.

Waihopai School teacher aide Sharon Watson knew full well that the notorious bunglers had struck again. So much as she had a pretty good topic of conversation for the morning, announcing she would work until lunchtime then retire, she hadn't really built her hopes up then had them dashed.

Again, on the upside, she was spared the temptations (not that we think for a moment she would have succumbed) that struck the runaway millionaires Leo Gao and Kara Hurring, who received a small fortune from an electronic bank error and fled the country, only to be eventually caught and held to account.

Another upside, of sorts, was that in spite of the evidence on her payslip, she is not getting charged - yes charged - nearly $60,000 an hour for 2.71 days of annual leave term time.

Heavy sighs. Novopay has confirmed that the payslip slip-up was essentially a formatting error. Just to be quite clear, the company was able to confirm that although similar mistakes had appeared on other slips, "no school employee has actually been paid at a rate of millions an hour".

Not so far, anyway.

Who knows what the future may hold for a system incapable, so far, of emerging from the mire of notoriety?

The reality for Sharon Watson was that, sure enough, the actual factual pay level that went into her account was stuffed up in a different direction. She was underpaid. And they messed up her sick days.

You have to ascribe what followed, however, to some sort of karmic apology.

An early morning phone call from a radio station brought the good news that she had just won $5000.

And since the station has no tie-up with Novopay, there's a fair to middling chance that the money might actually show up sometime soon.

For observers, the all-but-relentless parade of Novopay errors has long since entered the realms of tragicomedy, we should not overlook the real disruptive harm that teachers have been living with.

More than 8000 errors have been logged in teachers' pay since the system was introduced in August. Overpayments, underpayments, no payments have created something worse than just a climate of giddying unpredictability.

One sorry example is the impact on teachers' Christmases. As one Southland teacher, Brett Smith, confirmed, he won't know until the new year whether or not he has been paid. So reasonably enough he has been cautious with his plans for the festive season.

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Of all the wishes we may have for the new year, a little predictability, stability and reliability for the nation's beleaguered teachers seems like a small enough addition to the list.

- The Southland Times

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