Data overload caused Jersey City’s municipal payroll system to crash a few pay cycles ago. Slowly but surely, it’s been creeping back to normal, according to city administrators.
Quizzed by City Council members at Monday’s caucus, James Carroll, assistant director of Human Resources, said the city is trying to switch all of its more than 2,000 employees to getting paid every two weeks, and “when we did the data upload…it created havoc. Information from the old system was wiped out.”
So, city staffers working in tandem with payroll-services firm Unicorn HRO, tried to reconstruct the data by manually punching the numbers in to the system, a time-consuming task, Carroll said.
In many cases, employees ended up getting paychecks with the wrong amounts, he said. Mostly affected were public safety workers, such as police officers and firefighters, who comprise more than half of the city’s work force.
Part of the problem had to do with city police personnel having been assigned to odd schedules (for conducting criminal stakeouts or manning public events) or firefighters working overtime to combat multi-alarm blazes, officials said.
Also, Carroll said, with the city’s having recently hired numerous Public Safety employees and having promoted many existing employees in the area, “public safety is the area where (the city’s information technology) has had “our biggest growing pains.”
The payroll data modifications also impacted calculations for employee health and pension plans, officials said.
It was a situation that called for “too many changes at one time,” according to Bernadette Kucharczuk, city IT director.
When asked by Councilmember Frank Gilmore (Ward F), “What’s being done to rectify the system,” John Metro, the city business administrator, said he has assigned a nine-member city employee “management-level” task force to focus on whatever corrective measures are needed to resolve the errors.
“That’s their permanent job,” he added.
To that end, Metro said, the city has identified about 300 employees with payroll-related issues.
Council President Joyce Watterman said that the task force members should have some basic working knowledge of the special needs of each city department so that the payroll system can be properly adjusted to meet those needs.
But Metro noted, for the past nine months the city has been without a payroll director. He said this gap was eliminated this past week with the hiring of Daphney Fontaine, who has worked for firms such as NJ Transit that have large workforces. And, since that agency has its own police force, Fontaine should be familiar with public safety-related schedule quirks that require payroll adjustments, Metro added.
Meanwhile, the city might have to pay out huge sums to settle differences with two city unions that allege the city failed to pay their employees the double time they were due for working during Covid-19. Public Employees’ Local 245, comprising blue collar workers, is seeking compensation that could total $30 million for such purposes; The city’s Supervisors Association is seeking marginal pay for 156 of its members, a matter the council is being asked tonight to hire actuarial firm UHAS Consultants, of Carmel, Ind., to corroborate for a fee of $30,000.