Family hit by pay bungle

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 26/09/2012

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A staff member at a Te Kuiti school is struggling to provide for his family after being underpaid for eight weeks under the "nightmare" Novopay system.

Eion Scarlett, caretaker at Pukenui School, is one of thousands of staff across the country who have missed out on pay since the new Education Ministry payroll was introduced last month.

Some have had to default on mortgage and hire-purchase payments, or take out overdrafts to get by.

The 39-year-old Piopio family man said he had received only a one-off payment of $2200 in the eight weeks since he started the job on August 6.

He calculated that at $6.25 an hour based on the time he has worked - less than half the minimum wage.

For the other seven weeks' work he was paid nothing by the government, he said.

"I just feel bullied from Novopay, from this government.

"All I want to do is provide for my family and I can't and it's through no fault of my own.

"I don't want a handout, I just want what's owed to me."

Mr Scarlett said he hadn't slept well for six weeks because of stress and was prescribed sleeping pills by his doctor.

And he felt "embarrassed" that there was no food in the cupboards for his four kids at home.

The Pukenui School board has been paying a portion of his wage, which will have to be refunded, and his wife was working part-time.

Education Ministry chief information officer Leanne Gibson yesterday said she hadn't heard of Mr Scarlett's case.

She said if the school contacted Novopay he would receive an advance payment and the issue preventing him from being paid would be resolved.

"I just cannot see how this person has fallen through the cracks, but I can get it sorted."

However, Pukenui's deputy principal Cherrie Boddie and office manager Sheree Maarhuis said they had been in "continual communication" with Novopay with "extremely unsatisfactory" results.

Ms Maarhuis spent nearly three hours on hold in one day trying to get through to the service desk, and three weeks after filing a complaint she has yet to receive a response.

"It's just completely unprofessional and I've never encountered such incompetency within an organisation ever on this scale before."

The school has had several other staff either underpaid, overpaid or paid at the wrong rate.

Waikato Principals' Association chair John Coulam said the Novopay system has been a "nightmare".

"In time I think it will be a very good system, but it just wasn't ready to be launched."

In the two pay cycles since Novopay was introduced, of 89,000 school staff, 6500 have had pay issues and all have been resolved.

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Ms Gibson said the ministry would reimburse Mr Scarlett, and others, for any costs incurred "as a direct result of not being paid on time".

Education Minister Hekia Parata has described Novopay as the "largest and one of the most complex pay systems in Australasia".

Novopay will run workshops in schools to work through problems with the system, starting today.

jonathan.carson@waikatotimes.co.nz

- © Fairfax NZ News

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