xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Baltimore municipal unions accuse city of breaching contracts with paycheck issues affecting thousands of workers

Dismay over a payroll problem that has left thousands of Baltimore employees without pay or with incomplete paychecks grew Monday with the heads of nine unions notifying city leaders in writing that the city is violating its major employment contracts.

Calling the implementation of payroll software “error prone, clumsy and static,” the letter was signed by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, two locals representing city firefighters and officers, the City Union of Baltimore and multiple local units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Advertisement

They said Baltimore is in violation of its “legal and contractual commitments” as an employer. The letter demands that city leaders make employees whole and open collective bargaining over the impact of the transition to the Workday software.

In a statement Monday night, Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott said he has given clear direction to the finance and human resources departments “to work diligently until our employees are made whole and the issues we face now with Workday are corrected.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

Problems began citywide in early January as Baltimore made the transition, issuing the first round of checks using solely the new software Jan. 8. Since then, various unions have sounded alarms that some members have been repeatedly underpaid, while others received no salary.

An attorney for one of the firefighters’ unions said the city had to issue supplemental checks Monday to 1,600 people in the fire department to make up for missing pay.

Mike Mancuso, president of the local FOP, said last week that 800 of his 2,400 members continued to be affected. The City Union of Baltimore, which represents about 3,000 employees, has seen at least 200 people affected.

On Monday, leaders with the Baltimore Fire Officers Local 964, which represents 342 officers, battalion chiefs and lieutenants in the Baltimore Fire Department, said at least 50 members have been affected.

Advertisement

Problems with the system have persisted for weeks. A rapidly evolving situation has made it hard to tell how much of the 13,000-member workforce is affected, said Stefanie Mavronis, spokeswoman for Scott. Mavronis has questioned the estimate from the police union, saying it “seems high.”

Baltimore said it would issue Monday 200 supplemental paychecks to employees in the Department of Public Works, Mavronis said. Checks were to be distributed by hand to get them to workers as quickly as possible, she said.

Scott also promised Monday to reimburse city employees financially for any late fees they have incurred as a result of the problem.

Mavronis has said the city was prepared for employees and managers to make mistakes entering and approving hours as part of the conversion to Workday. But finance officials are seeing more systemic issues that didn’t pop up during trial runs, including problems related to specific jobs, employees or labor units, she said.

In their letter to city leaders Monday, union officials said they’ve observed problems not just with incomplete or missing paychecks, but also incorrect routing numbers for direct deposits; omitted overtime, shift differential and hazard pay, as well as incorrect deductions for health insurance premiums and other benefits. Other employees were having trouble accessing flexible spending accounts for health expenses, the letter stated.

Union leaders blamed problems on a hasty conversion to Workday, and some said the city offered only minimal training. They also said the city failed to update employee payroll information as part of the transition.

The switch to Workday is a three-year project budgeted at approximately $44.4 million. Baltimore paid the company directly for the software, which was a $9.7 million piece of the ultimate price tag. The city expects to see a $25 million benefit annually as a result of the improved payroll process, particularly controls on the city’s overtime spending, Mavronis said.

Until now, city employees used paper time sheets, a system flagged by an audit years ago that showed the police department’s reliance on antiquated systems left it vulnerable to waste and fraud.

Preparations for the transition to Workday began well before Scott became mayor Dec. 6. He said Monday that he “cannot say what the last administration did or did not do to troubleshoot anticipated challenges and prepare Baltimore City employees for this new system.”

“Moving forward, our staff will continue to work around the clock to correct the issues with implementation and ensure employees are paid timely,” Scott said.

Joshua L. Fannon, an attorney representing Baltimore Fire Officers Local 964, said that the issues are widespread. He cautioned that some employees might not yet realize portions of their paychecks and deductions are wrong.

Fannon said city officials initially told employees they would prioritize those who hadn’t been paid at all and seemed to be doing as promised. But as issues persisted, finance officials said they would also address those whose checks were off by $300 or more, he said.

“To my knowledge, that has not happened for anybody except those who received no pay at all,” he said.

Fannon said the city issued supplemental checks Monday to 1,600 people in the fire department, although those corrected only one specific payroll problem experienced across the agency.

Fannon said training on the system was lacking. The fire officers, many of them midlevel managers who approve the payroll for their units, received a brief PowerPoint presentation, he said. They were not able to try out the system as part of the training.

Mavronis said 142 individual webinar trainings were held to brief employees on the new payroll software. City records show 11,053 employees attended at least one of the sessions, she said.

Fannon said union leaders were pleased to hear Scott speaking out about the payroll issue. He also applauded Democratic City Council President Nick Mosby’s announcement last week that he would seek an investigative hearing on the matter.

Union leadership faulted the software provider and the city’s Workday transition executive steering committee. It includes representatives from the finance, human resources and information technology departments.

It’s time for the software provider to “step out of the shadows” and pay city employees what they are due, Fannon said.

“Absent that, their contract should be in serious jeopardy,” he said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement