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City labor unions won’t sue Kenney administration over glitches that affected thousands of paychecks

The city's labor unions are pausing their plans to file a lawsuit over payroll discrepancies, following a meeting with Mayor Jim Kenney Friday.

Philadelphia City Hall.
Philadelphia City Hall.Read moreReid Kanaley/Staff/File

Labor leaders are pumping the brakes on plans to file a lawsuit against the city over thousands of inaccurate paychecks to their members. The decision follows a private meeting with Mayor Jim Kenney in which the mayor apologized and promised to resolve the issue.

On Friday, Kenney and his top aides met with legal representatives for AFSCME District Council 47 and Fire Fighters Local 22. Deborah Willig, the attorney representing the two largest locals within D.C. 47 that requested Friday’s meeting, said the city is taking the necessary steps to get employees compensated accurately and in a timely fashion.

“The rollout of this new payment plan had some serious glitches,” Willig said. “But the city has acted in good faith to resolve things.”

Last week, leaders of several locals within the city’s two municipal labor unions started preparing a lawsuit against the city over “egregious” payroll discrepancies.

The problems stem from the rollout of the payroll portion of One Philly, a $40 million IT project years in the making that will link payroll, pensions, and benefits under one system. As soon as the first One Philly paychecks went out in April, thousands of employees saw missing wages in standard hours, overtime, and holiday pay, and other inaccuracies. Some received no paycheck at all. Others received more money than they earned.

A Kenney spokesperson said last week that the city had to issue at least 5,121 supplemental paychecks in the last month to correct mistakes. The administration, however, has not yet said how many people were overpaid or were missing paychecks.

“Our focus this entire time is to get people paid what they are due on time or as quickly as possible,” Chief of Staff Jim Engler said Tuesday.

Hours after the Friday meeting, the city set up a hotline for city workers to call about paycheck issues. The line is staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. In an email to employees, the city said that if their call was not answered to leave a message and their call would be returned the same day.

The hotline was one of nine requests the union made of the city, most of which the city obliged.

Other requests included resolving overtime payroll issues by Friday, issuing supplemental checks within 48 hours of realizing a shortage occurred, and reimbursing city employees for late fees or bank charges incurred as a result of pay issues.

Engler said the payroll errors were a result of technology issues and human error.

“We are moving from a system people used for 30 years — a mainframe system on a black screen — and moving to a modern system, and there are some bumps in the road,” Engler said, adding that workers charged with inputting employees’ times into the new system are receiving additional training.

Engler said he expects that anyone who was shorted during the first two pay periods of One Philly will be compensated by Friday. Going forward the city expect paychecks to be accurate, but perhaps not 100 percent.

“We will be consistently tweaking it. … It will need to be continuously updated," Engler said.

One of the other requests the unions had was that One Philly be modified so that only vacation, overtime, or anything other than regular work hours would have to be entered into the system, as opposed to filing every work hour.

The shift would “give us a little more control of what is entered,” Engler said, noting that human error in entering time has been part of the issue in the inaccurate paychecks.

The unions had asked that this be done within two weeks. Engler said in his response to the unions: “We are actively working with our technology vendor to make this change. We have not yet identified a timeline to do so.”

The city has also developed a claims form for employees to fill out if they have incurred fines or penalty fees due to pay issues. Engler said claims will be reviewed to see if they qualify for reimbursement. If so, the city has agreed to pay those fees.

Employees who are not able to resolve paycheck issues through their departmental human resources are asked to call or email the One Philly hotline. Help Desk: 215-988-8038; Email: