Nova Scotia

VON nurses overpaid due to payroll problems

A national payroll system for the Victorian Order of Nurses is continuing to cause headaches, with the organization now claiming some nurses have been overpaid.

A national payroll system for the Victorian Order of Nurses is continuing to cause headaches, with the organization now claiming some nurses have been overpaid.

"Some nurses may owe anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000," said Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union.

In Nova Scotia, the problems began last year when hundreds of nurses and home support workers employed by VON missed paycheques or received inaccurate paycheques that did not reflect overtime or mileage.

VON had brought in the SAP software system on Jan. 1, 2011 as part of a nation-wide administrative overhaul in the finance, payroll and HR systems.

"Some nurses got no pay at all. They anticipated a paycheque. There was absolutely no money deposited in their accounts," said Hazelton.

"So what VON did was give them cash."

As the new software system gradually rectified the errors, some of the payments the nurses were entitled to were deposited.

In a statement, VON said that the payroll reconciliation process resulted in some nurses being overpaid.

"VON has confirmed that some employees were overpaid, and these funds will be recovered in consultation with the affected employees — repayment terms that work for both the employee and the organization," said the statement.

"Conversely, if VON becomes aware that an employee is owed funds, then a payment will be made to them."

VON did not disclose how much money they are owed.

The situation came to a head on Dec. 23 when — without notice — VON clawed back a retroactivity cheque from a recently negotiated collective agreement.

"Although this decision was made with the best interests of the employees in mind, it soon became clear that the decision was causing pain," VON said in a statement.

After an uproar, the organization put the money back.

Each nurse's pay record to be checked

The dispute will now be resolved with an examination of each nurse's pay record, which is expected to take about eight hours for each nurse.

"Nurses may owe VON, but VON may also owe significant amounts of money to nurses," said Hazelton.

"All that needs to be done through the reconciliation process, which is going to be a very labour-intensive process."

Robin MacLean, the staff director of negotiations and servicing for the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, said while the situation has improved for the 400 VON home support workers she represents, it's not yet fixed.

"It's been a nightmare for the members. They make $16 an hour," she told CBC News on Friday.

"I'd say since September, they haven't had the same on-going issues. It's been problems of underpayment and overpayment and inaccurate documentation of certain things."

VON said its payroll system is now working.

"VON continues to be mindful and concerned about the level of upset that exists and is working to resolve any remaining challenges through an extensive, organization-wide payroll reconciliation process that began in November," said the statement.

But the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union maintains the system is not problem-free.

"We haven't gone through a pay cycle yet where there hasn't been a problem," said Hazelton.