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Govt concedes Novopay debacle could worsen

Published: 10:19AM Wednesday January 09, 2013 Source: ONE News / Newstalk ZB

Problems with the Novopay system are continuing today as staff cut short their holidays to deal with issues in the latest pay round for teachers, and the government is now conceding things could get worse when the new school year begins.

Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said there have been the usual problems of overpay and underpay, and issues which were logged last year have not yet been fixed.

Epsom Girls Grammar School Careers Advisor Tia Greenstreet has not been paid correctly for five pay runs.

She's says the debacle has had a devastating impact.

"It's not fair. My family are feeling the effects. We haven't been able to go away. We're worried about when the next pay is going to come home and what effect that will have on our bills. It's very stressful at home," she told ONE News.

Epsom Girls Grammar School Property Manager Rory Hoareau said staff need their salaries as they have "commitments to mortgages". He said he was thankful the school was helping.

Since August last year almost 8000 school staff have been underpaid or not paid at all, while thousands of others have been overpaid.

And Epsom Girls Grammar School Deputy Principal Fiona Cottam said she is "very wary" about when staff return to school at the end of January.

"I think we're going to have a lot of errors and we're going to have a lot of problems with that," she said.

Something the Ministry of Education admits is bracing itself for.

"We'll be doing everything we can to avoid that, but I don't want to give the expectation either that it'll be all smooth sailing, because the start of the year is a big tricky process we'll need to work through with schools," says Rebecca Elvy, Ministry of Education Novopay Spokesperson.

The Secondary Principals Association says the situation is so bad it will be asking principals for a vote of no confidence in Novopay.

Another group, the Principals' Federation, wants the Auditor General to back an urgent review of the system.

Figures released by Labour's Education spokesman Chris Hipkins earlier this week revealed 15,000 calls to the service centre between August and November were unanswered or abandoned.

Ministry of Education Novopay spokesperson Rebecca Elvy said the rate of abandonment is much higher than they would like and more people have been put into the call centres.

Hipkins' figures show schools paid out $560,000 themselves to cover the ongoing errors with Novopay, 7899 people had been underpaid or not paid at all, and more than 6000 people have been overpaid

He said only 281 manual payments to correct faults have been processed.

Staff vent anger online

School staff commenting on the ONE News Facebook page said each pay round brought fresh anxiety.

"I'm tired of holding my breath every fortnight 'just in case' something goes wrong," Robyn Anderson wrote. "It must be gut wrenching stuff for those who have missed pay or are behind. It needs to be over!"

Sue Bidois said she shared the concerns, "Each week I have a niggling worry that maybe my pay wont go through. It shouldn't be that way. I have been lucky, but many teachers and schools have not been so lucky."

Jackie Corbett said she was one of those who has had to use up her summer holiday to try and fix problems.

"Novopay - I HATE you!! Because of you I'm at work today ALL day instead of a couple of hours!

"People with no pay ring MOE (Ministry of Education) direct cause Novopay aren't going to fix it for you unless they are instructed to do it...the school payroll admin can't get results."