End pay errors, schools plead

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013

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Principals are saying enough is enough after months of frustration dealing with the fault-ridden Novopay system.

Money is coming out of their budgets to make up pay for staff not being paid correctly, they say.

The spillover can only mean school services and students will be the loser.

"Basically I don't care who's to blame, I just want it fixed," Waitara principal Jenny Gellen said last week.

"It's just a myriad of problems."

The Government's fix-it minister Steven Joyce moved last week to implement an inquiry, saying the Government appreciated the issues.

But Ms Gellen was not impressed.

On a check of their latest wages report, her school staff found no less than 16 staff out of a total 59 would be affected by the errors, she said.

"We are over people ‘appreciating the issues' because they have no idea.

"Maybe instead of paying for a ministerial inquiry they could fund that money it costs into the support staff who have been trying to work with the system and doing extra hours and the frustration they have had because no school has been compensated as far as I'm aware for anything."

School staff working with Novopay had done "an amazing job with a donkey", she said.

Some people assumed it was only teaching staff who were affected "but it's all the support staff as well".

Many of them were on a small wage and had commitments they needed to keep.

"Schools are doing everything they can but it's to the ridiculous point now."

Some staff who had resigned or retired last year were still getting paid. Others had not received their secondary teachers' pay increase, Ms Gellen said.

Secondary Schools Principals Association Taranaki spokesman Mark Bowden, of Spotswood College, said his message to the Government was to "sort it out".

The ministerial review was absolutely imperative, Mr Bowden said.

"This can't carry on. We've been five months now. We could deal with it if the error rate was improving but it doesn't appear that it is."

The old system was not perfect but it was 100 times better than Novopay, he said.

Novopay was throwing up "some quite bizarre errors".

"Our pay clerk waved 20 pages [of errors] at me yesterday."

For example one teacher had lost all their top-up pay - dropping their pay by $4000 - for performing the senior role they had been doing for six years.

"It's quite unfair on staff. How do people meet their commitments, how do they budget?"

The errors spilt into staff tax rates, superannuation, KiwiSaver and their childcare commitments.

"It's just unfair. And schools are having to pick that up.

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"I shudder to think how much time this is costing schools. The big question is what compensation is going to be given to schools."

Efforts to deal directly with Novopay had been met with nothing but frustrations for staff.

The Novopay debacle was on the SSTA agenda for the next meeting, Mr Bowden said.

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Philip Harding said errors were growing with every pay round.

"We are delighted that [Mr Joyce] has agreed to an immediate IT review," Mr Harding said. "This is the first time that the education sector has had public acknowledgement of the full extent and seriousness of the errors that continue to occur and compound.

"We are cautiously optimistic . . . that a resolution will be found and that appreciation of the stress and financial cost schools have had to absorb will be acknowledged," he said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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