The Novopay debacle has hit a new low, with revelations the payroll company and debt collectors are chasing teachers for overpayments as low as $22.
A West Auckland primary teacher described last night how she was being chased for $22.78.
"I was accidentally paid $1840 by Novopay in October, although I hadn't worked for 10 months at that time," said teacher Kelly Clarke, who is on maternity leave.
"I immediately realised I had been overpaid and tried to find out how I could pay it back. No one knew how to go about this.
"At the end of January, Novopay requested that I pay the money back. I repaid $1840 - the net pay that I had received. Since then I have received several requests that I repay a $22.78 [union] contribution which Novopay automatically made on my behalf when they paid me. I have made no effort to do so, since I never received that money ...
"Yesterday morning, a courier arrived and woke up my household. The delivery was a letter from Novopay informing me that debt collectors would be employed to take control of my $22.78 debt."
After she complained, Novopay representatives said they would put debt collection on hold while they looked into the case.
The minister in charge of sorting out the Novopay problems, Steven Joyce, was flying back from overseas last night, but a spokesman said debt collection was not something the minister had asked for and was most certainly something he would look at.
Acting Secretary for Education Peter Hughes said the ministry would review the debt recovery policy to ensure it was "appropriate in the current circumstances".
The Novopay payroll system, run by Australian company Talent2 and introduced six months ago, has been plagued by problems, and teachers and support staff have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.
Ian Leckie, immediate past president of the NZ Educational Institute, said the collection action was "extremely heavy-handed".
He understood debt collectors were approaching teachers while they were working, and the visits were the first they knew about any overpayment.
He said the ministry owed money to his school, which had paid $45,000 in advance to teachers who had been victims of the Novopay system.
"But our school certainly isn't sending debt collectors around to the ministry for what we had to pay out."
Post Primary Teachers' Association general secretary Kevin Bunker said employees should repay any accidental wage overpayments.
"However, in the current climate where the teachers are the unfortunate victims of a dysfunctional payroll system, we would urge the Ministry of Education to call the dogs off."
Talent2 could not be reached for comment.