Guarded reaction to Novopay moves

Otago principals are guarded following the Post Primary Teachers' Association's launch of a group legal action against the Government over the Novopay debacle.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the association would be seeking compensation for members for the ''hurt, humiliation and financial suffering'' caused by the ''dysfunctional'' payroll system.

The New Zealand Educational Institute told the Otago Daily Times yesterday it, too, was investigating legal action against the Government, although it could not say when.the PPTA's national executive met at the weekend, resolving to open a legal channel enabling members to take collective legal action.

Ms Roberts said despite reassuring noises made by Government representatives, there were still no definite plans to develop a resourced survival package for affected schools and their employees.

With growing pressure from struggling members, the PPTA had decided to take matters into its own hands, she said.

Members were invited to join the collective action and responses were pouring in, she said.

The union was still deciding if the legal action would be taken against the Government or the Novopay provider, Talent2.

Because of the complexity of the case, the association was looking at various legal options.

''We are discussing the issue with our lawyers while we collect data and prepare witness statements,'' she said.

Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Brent Russell was guarded in his response to the announcement and declined to say whether the move was welcomed by principals.

However, he was not surprised by the PPTA's action.

''While some of the Novopay issues have been addressed, there are still an unacceptable number of schools and individual staff members around the country who are still being adversely affected.

''To its credit, the ministry is keeping schools and boards of trustees informed of the progress to date, in terms of measures being taken.

''However, the bottom line is that the education sector needs a robust and efficient payroll programme that works.''

Otago Primary Principals' Association president Whetu Cormick was also guarded.

He wanted to know what the NZEI's response was first, and instead chose to focus on the continuing distress caused by Novopay.

''In light of the latest New Zealand Principals' Federation survey results, which suggest that hundreds of school administration staff are under stress and at the end of their tether, it is no surprise that the PPTA has sought legal advice to take action against the Government.

''There were 25,000 errors in the last pay round and one would argue this situation is untenable.

''[Minister in charge of Novopay] Steven Joyce should take serious action to remedy the situation or return to our previous payroll provider.''

Mr Joyce said he was not concerned about the legal action.

''We're all frustrated, but I actually don't know if it will achieve anything.

''But that's over to them. They've got to decide what it is that they want to do.''

He said much work was going on behind the scenes, and there was ''no easy path through''.

A draft technical report was due at the end of this week, which would provide information about whether the remediations would solve the problems with Novopay.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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