Board organizes emergency pay - school staff upaid for several weeks (Toronto) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

February 1, 2000

Board organizes emergency pay

School staff unpaid for several weeks

By Louise Brown Toronto Star Education Reporter

The Toronto District School Board deserves ``a kick in the rear end'' for a foul-up that has left hundreds of employees without pay, says board chair Gail Nyberg.

Scrambling yesterday to solve what Nyberg called the ``absolute embarrassment'' of missing or incomplete paycheques caused by glitches in a new payroll system, the board has put temporary measures in place to make sure employees are paid.

``I can do nothing but apologize - but apologies won't put food on the table,'' Nyberg said yesterday. ``So we have met today and been able to put significant overrides (of cash) into the system so that most people should be paid the proper amount in their paycheques Feb. 3.

``And for any who still have problems, we have set up special emergency numbers to call so we guarantee no one should go home Friday without a paycheque.''

Some employees say they have received no pay since December, others say they have received too little money, and one lunch-room supervisor who asked not to be named told The Star she had been paid too much.

Senior members of the board's staff are to meet today to discuss the problem with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 14,000 non-teaching workers, including secretaries, caretakers, lunchroom supervisors, education assistants and language instructors, among others.

The foul-ups arose when the board merged the payroll systems of its six former boards as of Jan. 1.

The board ran into particular trouble with workers whose part-time or irregular hours require a time card that needs to be filled out in a new way at the schools and then transferred to a computer system unfamiliar to many payroll staff, explained Brian Cain, the board's executive officer for business services.

When teachers had their payrolls merged last fall, there were few glitches because teachers across the former boards shared the same pay scale.

But for non-teaching staff such as caretakers, secretaries, language instructors and education assistants - whose payrolls were merged Jan. 1 - the transition involved more than 900 different job categories and six different union contracts.

``No doubt it is complicated,'' said Nyberg, ``but nevertheless, we cannot ask people to work without pay. I would be livid if it happened to me. The board deserves every bit of criticism it gets.''

Trustee Sheila Ward criticized senior staff for not notifying elected trustees of the problem earlier ``so we could have set up a hotline for employees or allowed them to file claims for any interest they were charged (for overdue bills). It's unconscionable that this has happened.''

Cain said, ``The trustee is right,'' adding that the board was not fully briefed ``partly because many of the complaints were just starting to surface and indeed are still surfacing.''

The board now issues paycheques every two weeks, with the next one due Thursday.

Single parent Peggie Lamb, a clerk at Scarborough's Highland Heights Junior Public School, had to borrow $200 from her grown daughter to pay this month's rent because of shortfalls in her January paycheque.

Lamb and her 14-year-old daughter Jessica also have been invited for dinner each night for the past two weeks by her friend Debbie Cary - herself a single mother of three - ``because she knows I can't afford groceries,'' said Lamb.

``A lot of us have been shafted,'' Lamb said. ``I'm owed about $250 for days I worked in December and another paycheque was short $100.''

Toronto music teacher Nancy Davidson said she had a cheque bounce for the first time in her life - for her January phone bill - when her first January paycheque came up short and a second did not arrive on time.

``I just freaked out, because my job is stressful anyway, teaching recorder at 11 different elementary schools. My husband stays at home with our daughter and we're lucky the bank officer was sympathetic and let us pay only the interest on our mortgage this month instead of the full payment.

``But the whole thing has just been so stressful,'' Davidson said.

``The school board should have sent out some sort of message to the banks to explain the situation.''

Board staff had warned employees in a memo last fall to expect some delays as it merged the six payroll systems into the new system, which pays employees two weeks in arrears - something new to many workers.

To add to the confusion, many payroll staff did not receive enough training in the complexities of the new system, said Cain, which involved entering more than 900 different job categories - plus wage scales from six different union contracts - into one new computer data bank.

``We have to go back now and scramble to get more people trained,'' Cain said.

For education assistant Michael Collins, who works three hours a day helping in several classrooms at Humberside Collegiate, ``I haven't been paid since December and I had to use some of my savings to pay a $330 bill for a new furnace motor.

``I'm glad I have a good stock of canned food, because I can't go back to the bank machine again till I get a paycheque.''

-- Homer Beanfang (, February 01, 2000


This has to be far more than a BITR for many of the people affected. To me, a critical part of y2k preps was ensuring that I had a level of economic flexibility going into this year. Wouldn't affect me in the least if I were not paid for a while. Of course, minor economic impacts like this, affecting people on a very personal, but intermittent level, are not the sort of problem that TPTB helped encourage people to prepare for.

-- Brooks (, February 01, 2000.

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