Teachers’ Unions plan legal action against Novopay

Charlie Dreaver

Both unions representing teachers, The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and the Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) have confirmed that they will be taking legal action against Novopay.

They have been told by Novopay that the new rates and backpay for union members, which took effect from  July 1, 2019, will not be paid until September 11, 2019.

Representatives from the unions have said they are talking to lawyers about their options.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins tweeted on July 16, 2019 saying that the delay was not good enough and said that he would be following up the matter.

Minister accepts delay

Today however, he said that the delay was unavoidable.

“I reluctantly accept that the complexity of implementing a unified pay scale and making significant changes to the agreement is going to result in a delay in implementation,” he said.

Mr Hipkins said it was frustrating and if there was a way to speed up the process he would.

In the meantime, he said the replacement of Novopay was under way.

Since teachers heard about the delay, both unions have said they would take legal action against Novopay.

NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter said it was outrageous teachers had to wait so long.

“We will move everything we can, to ensure those teachers will get what they’re entitled to when they’re entitled to it,” he said.

The PPTA said it was prepared to keep pushing legal action against Novopay even after pay increases won by teachers were paid out.

PPTA vice president Melanie Webber said the reasons for the delay were unacceptable.”

Financial burden

“It is more than possible that the legal action won’t be concluded by that time but what we need to do is send a clear signal to people that this is unacceptable. You cannot wait over two months to give people the pay increase that you have promised them.”

Ms Webber said that teachers were expecting that money, and were facing financial burden as a result.

National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye said that all resources needed to be put in to getting teachers paid urgently.

“Some teachers are messaging me saying how is it that it only took them two pay cycles to deduct the strike action, but it’s going to take them five pay cycles to actually pay them their pay rises,” she said.

Ms Kaye said the government prolonged negotiations for over a year for secondary teachers, so the Ministry of Education and Education Payroll had a long time to prepare.

“The reality is there are tens of thousands of teachers with bills to pay and mortgages that need the Minister and agencies to deal with this matter urgently,” she said.

Unprecedented Problem

Education Payroll, which is in charge of Novopay, sent a written response in which it said it had never before faced a payroll adjustment of this complexity.

In the statement, Chief Executive Arlene White said that teachers often had multiple roles, and hence there were 139,000 individual jobs requiring pay adjustment.

Ms White said that the current payroll system did not have the facility to easily make the complex adjustments required and hence they have to design, write and test the new code.

Teachers are also due a $1500 lump payment, which will now not be paid until the end of the month.

Ms White said that too was more complicated than it sounded.

“There are different calculations for full-time teachers, pro-rated part-time teachers, day relief only teachers, part-time teachers who also do day relief work, and teachers on leave.”

She said the replacement payroll service that Education Payroll was building, called ‘EdPay,’ would allow considerably more flexibility and responsiveness to changes in the future.

Strike Action

A nationwide strike by primary, secondary and area school teachers over the pay deal that was on offer took place on May 29, 2019, but teachers at primary and intermediate schools subsequently accepted a deal giving them 18.5% pay rise over three years.

However, the deal was rejected by primary and intermediate principals who said the latest offer would have seen some principals in smaller schools paid less than some teachers in larger schools.

Charlie Dreaver is a Political Reporter at Radio New Zealand. The above Report and Picture have been published under a Special Arrangement with www.rnz.co.nz


Photo Caption:

  1. Chris Hipkins: ‘Delay unavoidable’ (RNZ Photoby Rebekah Parsons-King)

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