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Union pickets Hogan's holiday party over Maryland payroll glitch

Members of the largest union of state workers, AFSCME, rallied outside the governor's mansion Thursday over continued glitches in the state payroll system. Aides to Gov. Larry Hogan, who was hosting a holiday party at the time, said the problem is being resolved and affects fewer people than the union contends. More than $80,000 worth of paychecks to 115 corrections officers had to be issued by hand, state officials said.

About 50 members of the largest union of state employees picketed the governor's mansion during a holiday party Thursday, demanding a fix to a payroll glitch they say has left scores of workers without full paychecks just before holidays.

State officials dispute the scope of the problem, but said Thursday they issued more than $81,000 worth of paper checks to 115 corrections workers last month because of payroll problems.

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Union officials with AFSCME Maryland say the Hogan administration is not counting the hundreds of workers who have not filed a formal complaint and are instead waiting for the problem to be resolved.

It stems from a switch to a new, uniform payroll system the state has adopted in stages this year.

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Corrections officers, whose payroll is complicated because of frequent overtime and prisons' 24/7 schedule, were moved to the system in late October. There have been problems with three pay periods since then. Responding to union complaints, two General Assembly committees held hearings on the issue Wednesday.

In a wind-chill that made it feel like temperatures were in the single digits Thursday, workers chanted and yelled for Gov. Larry Hogan to fix the problem. The governor was inside the mansion hosting an annual holiday party for state workers.

Corrections officer Robert Smead, who works in Baltimore, said his paycheck on Nov. 2 was at least $800 short. It took a month, he said, for the state to reimburse him. By then he had already scaled back his daughter's 5th birthday party because he didn't have enough money to make a down payment on his new Pikesville home and also pay for her party.

Smead said his paycheck for this week is also short, but not by as much. He said he's still waiting for overtime pay for hours he worked last month.

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"This was the paycheck right before Christmas," he said. "People can't go shop because they didn't get paid."

Gary McLhinney, director of professional standards for the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, said AFSCME is "disingenuous" with its characterization of the problems.

"This appears to be more about politics than about people getting paid," he said

McLhinney said the problems have "gone down drastically. This pay period, it effected 24 people statewide."

"Everybody who has come to us has gotten a paper check," he said. "If I'm the one who is not getting a paycheck, I'd be upset. We want to be 100 percent accurate. These people do difficult work and they deserve to be paid on time. We're doing the best we can."

Hogan has had a tenuous relationship with unions since taking office two years ago. After the state teacher's union criticized the governor's education funding decisions in August, Hogan referred to them as "union thugs" on his Facebook page.

Thursday, protesters shouted "hug a thug!" at the governor's mansion.

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