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Coronavirus contact tracers among Baltimore employees who haven’t been paid

Some of Baltimore’s coronavirus contact tracers, employed to help manage the spread of the deadly virus, are among a group of city employees who haven’t been paid or who have received only partial paychecks in the last few weeks, city officials confirmed Wednesday.

Administrators in Baltimore have fielded dozens of complaints from employees whose pay was incorrect or missing. Officials blame much of the problem on Baltimore’s transition from paper timecards to Workday, a digital human resources and payroll platform. The change became official last week.

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Stefanie Mavronis, spokeswoman for Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott, said this week that about 100 of the city’s 13,200 employees have been affected.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, which represents city police officers, tweeted ahead of the change about its concerns. This week, it chided Scott and Democratic Council President Nick Mosby for the problems with the transition.

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“City leaders have shown nothing but contempt for our members by rolling out the new Workday HR system before it was ready. It has been a disaster!” the union said on Twitter. “We have officers with no paychecks and many others have checks that are very short. Not good for morale.”

Scott pledged during a news conference Wednesday to make city employees whole.

“People not getting paid for their work is not acceptable,” he said.

Finance Director Henry Raymond said all complaints brought to the city have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed by city staff. Raymond said payroll employees have been working “around the clock” to fix the problem, which is citywide but can affect employees differently based on which union they belong to.

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He said problems that arose included those due to employees making errors in how they entered their hours; in whether they were on leave during a pay period and if so, what type of leave was used, and in whether or not a supervisor’s approval was granted.

“All of these issues are being addressed, and we expect that all employees will be made whole,” Raymond said.

Mavronis said city officials believe U.S. Postal Service delays were partially responsible for late payments to contact tracers, in particular. Baltimore has been mailing more paychecks than usual to avoid staff picking them up in person during the pandemic, she said.

Massive delays have been reported nationwide with Postal Service deliveries amid historically high use during the pandemic and the decommissioning of mail sorting equipment.

In June, Baltimore pledged to hire 300 contact tracers to investigate the spread of the coronavirus from person to person. The $12 million public-private program is supported by the mayor’s office, Baltimore Civic Fund, the hiring network Baltimore Corps and a host of foundations and corporations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, PepsiCo Inc. and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Officials with the city Department of Health confirmed that some members of the contact tracing team had issues receiving paychecks. The issue is particularly affecting new hires, who often receive paper checks for their first pay period.

“Baltimore Health Corps members are receiving frequent updates and communication about how these challenges are being resolved and the Baltimore City Health Department and the city’s Department of Finance are working diligently to fix these issues as quickly as possible,” said Jeff Amoros, the health department’s senior director for external affairs, in a statement.

Baltimore Corps CEO Fagan Harris said contact tracers are “vitally important to the health and well-being of our city.”

”Since March, Baltimore has come together in ways big and small to combat the virus. So many people, including our residents, and especially our front-line staff, have stretched and sacrificed to save lives,” he said. “This issue has been elevated within the health department and they are working with the city’s Department of Finance to urgently resolve it.”

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