School secretary still awaiting first pay

By John Lewis

Purakaunui School secretary Jacque Ruston has not been paid since she started work at the school in August. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery
Purakaunui School secretary Jacque Ruston has not been paid since she started work at the school in August. Photo / Stephen Jaquiery

Nearly four months after starting as Purakaunui School's secretary, Jacque Ruston still has not been paid under the new Novopay system, despite Ministry of Education assurances her pay issues would be sorted.

The single mother of two was again not paid in yesterday's fortnightly pay round, leaving the ministry red-faced and apologising "unreservedly".

Ms Ruston is one of hundreds of education staff who have had their pay bungled by Talent2's new payroll system, which was introduced by the Ministry of Education in September.

Ms Ruston said she started the job in August, just before the Novopay system was introduced, and seven pay cycles had gone by without her being paid.

"I haven't been paid since I started working at the school.

"I'm quite astounded. It's amazing they still haven't paid me, after they have promised they would.

"My story has been well documented with the Ministry of Education and they've still let me down.

"You have to wonder at the extent of their ineptitude."

Ms Ruston said life had been very difficult, having to find money to pay her mortgage, run her car and feed her two primary school-aged children.

"I have taken bank loans, I've had meals at friends places and I've been offered interest free loans from friends.

"We live simply. There's no room for special treats like going to the movies."

She said families in her community had been very supportive, and she was very philosophical about her situation.

"It makes you be more creative and resourceful. For the kids' birthdays, we had treasure hunts and made presents instead of buying them," she said.

Despite her situation, she believed there were other education staff around the country in worse predicaments than hers.

"My situation is minor compared to some other people around the country.

"I don't want people to think I'm the worst case scenario."

Ministry of Education group manager Rebecca Elvy apologised "unreservedly" for the situation Ms Ruston was in.

"As a matter of urgency, we are investigating why Jacque did not receive her pay today as promised.

"We have confirmed that Jacque's school has today paid her an advance, and that she has agreed she will get the rest of her pay on the next pay day - November 28."

Ms Elvy said 92,465 teachers and school support staff were successfully paid in the latest Novopay pay-cycle.

She said there were fewer than 20 non-payments and underpayments identified so far, and records showed 494 transactions from the pay cycle had not been processed. Not all missed transactions impacted pay.

"The ministry has been working hard to ensure a successful pay run. I'm pleased to see the figures are an improvement on previous cycles.

"However, although fewer than in previous pay cycles, some people are still not being paid and that is not acceptable.

"We are working with Talent2 to ensure those people get paid as soon as possible, and to iron out the technical bugs remaining in the system that cause so much frustration for payroll administrators."

- Otago Daily Times

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