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Philly city employees: Paycheck problems still abound amid search for solutions

Four months after a new city payroll system was rolled out with immediate problems, workers are still getting inaccurate paychecks.

Philadelphia City Hall, photographed in November, 2018.
Philadelphia City Hall, photographed in November, 2018.Read moreMichael Bryant / File Photograph

Two months after the city averted a lawsuit over its dysfunctional new payroll system that inaccurately calculated thousands of workers’ paychecks and even sent some a $0 pay stub, employees and union officials say the system has yet to be fixed.

In interviews this week, city employees said checks are still being miscalculated, overtime is not being counted, sick-time and vacation accruals are inaccurate, and some employees are being urged to track their own time.

“Most times there are no clear answers," said one employee in the Department of Human Services. "I can’t think of a person who has not had a problem, except for management.”

His sentiments were echoed by five other employees. They work in the Prisons, Fire, and Health Departments. All requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly speak about the paycheck problems.

Said one prisons employee: “I myself … wasn’t paid for two days — again. Pretty much nothing has changed or got better since being implemented.”

A Health Department employee said overtime issues had plagued her department until last month. Reached Wednesday, she said they had been resolved.

The $40 million project, called OnePhilly, is supposed to replace the city’s decades-old timekeeping, payroll, pension, and benefits systems and link them under one system. Payroll was the second-to-last module; pension still needs to be completed. The project, which started under the Nutter administration, has been delayed for years and cost millions more than its initial budget.

When workers started receiving the paychecks under the OnePhilly system in March, they noticed missing overtime and other lost wages. The offices of the four municipal labor unions — which together represent about 30,000 employees — had their phones ringing constantly with complaints from shortchanged city workers, they said. Some of the locals under AFSCME District Councils 47 and 33 started preparing a lawsuit against the city in late April, but did not file it after Mayor Jim Kenney promised in early May to address the issue.

But payroll issues still abound.

“I think they rushed it out,” said Frederick Wright, who leads D.C. 47, the union for white-collar workers. "They didn’t vet the system properly. They just put it there without doing their due diligence.”

Eric Hill, business agent for D.C. 33 Local 159, which represents 3,000 employees in prisons, the Juvenile Justice Center, the Office of Supportive Housing, and the Office of Homeless Services, as well as some guards and employees of the Sheriff’s Office, said problems have diminished, but he still gets calls and emails daily.

On Tuesday, Hill said, he forwarded 37 payroll discrepancies to the OnePhilly team for the prison system alone.

“It’s getting better, it’s getting addressed. But payroll itself is still problematic,” Hill said.

When asked if he would still consider filing a lawsuit, Hill said he couldn’t speak to immediate plans but the draft lawsuit still exists.

Meanwhile, the city is considering its own legal action against the vendors behind OnePhilly, said a city official who asked not to be named discussing possible litigation.

In their interviews with The Inquirer, workers said some city employees have been told to keep track of their own time. Some departments have even been filing paper time sheets as backups to the electronic system.

Issues such as vacation and sick-time balances not showing up accurately on pay stubs were thought to be resolved last month. But within the last two weeks, employees have again seen balances wiped out or reduced, some said.

“We are still investigating and do not at this time have information on scope or root cause,” city spokesperson Mike Dunn said Thursday.

Factors contributing to inaccurate paychecks, he said, have included data entry errors by administrative staff and employees themselves. Recently, Dunn said, police officers’ paychecks were inaccurate because of the way the uniform allowance was calculated. That has been fixed, he said.

Dunn disputed the characterization that the system is miscalculating time.

“Overtime is not being miscalculated. The issue is that OT is often being paid late, not in the period it was earned,” he said.

The city has implemented workarounds, but hasn’t given workers a timeline for when the root problems will be resolved, said Wright.

The OnePhilly team has been meeting weekly with the blue-collar and white-collar municipal union leaders to resolve issues and complaints, Dunn said. In addition, the city has hired outside consultants to help fix the OnePhilly problems.

The city has received 3,222 complaints from employees over OnePhilly issues, but the pace has significantly decreased — from more than 1,000 in the first week of May to 78 last week, officials said.

“We are confident," Dunn said in an email, "they will continue to reduce as we adapt to the new system.”