Call centres swamped with teacher payroll inquiries

Call centres set up to deal with teachers' payroll problems have taken more than 800 calls after the first pay round of the school year, with hundreds of teachers expected to be underpaid or not paid at all.

Ministry of Education officials have manually paid 86 teachers this week after "discrepancies" in their pay packets, but the number of total errors was expected to be in the hundreds.

A ministry call centre received 228 calls on Waitangi Day and a further 102 calls and 197 emails yesterday from teachers, principals and payroll administrators.

Payroll company Talent2's call centre had also taken more than 500 calls since the pay round this week.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said it was expected that the start-of-year payments would be difficult.

"There were errors and there was the expectation that this would be significant because, of course, the teachers' agreement kicked in as of this pay round."

This pay round also had to take into account staff who had changed schools, teachers moving into new roles and new staff coming on to the payroll.

A briefing given to the minister responsible for Novopay, Steven Joyce, said that 500 staff were left off the start-of-year pay last year.

In all, Talent2 made payments of $143 million to 74,400 staff this week.

Ministry staff were called in on Waitangi Day because of anticipated problems with the new payment system, and banks also helped to facilitate missed payments.

The ministry was compiling a report for Mr Joyce which detailed the complaints and queries related to this pay round.

Ms Parata emphasised that the problems would not be fixed overnight.

"Our commitment is to try and get this resolved. I think it's been made really clear ... that it's going to take some time."

Mr Joyce's briefing said that Novopay's processing of fortnightly payments had been improving, but the rate of improvement was so slow "that it is virtually invisible to school users".

The $30 million payroll system developed by Australian company Talent2 has suffered from ongoing errors since it was introduced in August, with more than 6000 errors recorded last year.

It was given the green light by officials despite showing 147 software defects in testing.

- Jared Savage of the New Zealand Herald

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