Local Politics

Workers say state's payroll system keeps shortchanging them

Posted October 31, 2008

— State workers protested in Raleigh Friday, saying they have not been paid wages that state's new payroll system shorted them.

Workers marching in front of the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters carried signs saying that the payroll system, called Beacon, was broken.

Beacon has made her broke, too, said Velma Sharpe-Vick, a worker at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson. The system messed up her paycheck over recent months, shorting her $840, Sharpe-Vick said.

"They were threatening to cut my lights off, my mortgage payment, my car payment – just financial burdens that normally I'd done paid in August," Sharpe-Vick said. "I'm struggling to pay now, to catch up."

Workers for the School for the Deaf said they came to Raleigh after protesting weekly in Wilson since late August. They said problems with overtime and shift differentials have not been fixed.

Employees at Cherry and Dorthea Dix hospitals also protested, saying that their paychecks, too, have taken a hit from Beacon.

"My understanding is that Beacon is having a hard time calculating when a shift doesn't occur 8-to-5 Monday through Friday, " Melissa Nelson, a social worker at Dorthea Dix hospital, said.

A spokesman for the Office of the State Controller said that it has been working to improve data input and training and to make changes to Beacon, which processes paychecks for nearly 90,000 state workers.

"The No. 1 priority for the Office of the State Controller is to make sure that state employees receive the pay to which they are entitled, and all of our resources are focused on that result," Dennis Patterson, the agency's public affairs director, said in a written statement.

The state signed a $28 million contract in 2006 to replace a 30-year-old human resources and payroll system. After the cost grew to $71 million and the system had gone through an initial testing phase, Beacon was rolled out statewide in April.

Between December 2007 and August, the Beacon call center received over 64,000 questions and complaints from state employees.

The N.C. Public Service Workers' Union organized Friday's rally, and members delivered a petition to a DHHS official. It  demanded that $7,000 in overdue wages be paid to the people at the protest, that the governor declare a state of emergency to give immediate relief to employees and that the state Department of Labor do a thorough investigation of the issue.

Patterson said that his agency's service center received very few calls Friday from DHHS or other agencies.

Patterson said that his agency has ironed a lot kinks out of Beacon and would continue efforts to make the system work well.

"We are making adjustments to the system and working with agencies and individual state employees to address their issues," Patterson said.

Despite the state controller's improvements, employees at the protest said that issues with their paychecks have not been resolved.

"My paycheck still hasn't gotten right," said Dix worker Monica Briggs, who claimed to be out about $500. "And by them throwing my paycheck off like that, it gets me behind in several of my bills."

"That's quite a bit of money to just lose in a month's time when you have to make a living," said Jeffrey Neal, a school employee who said he hadn't lost any money due to Beacon but wanted to support his colleagues who had.

"They got the paychecks so screwed up, we really don't know what's going on," Sharpe-Vick said.

Employees can call hotlines to have their cases reviewed. In Raleigh, the number is 919-707-0707. Elsewhere in the state, workers can call 866-622-3784.

Protesters also chanted, "What do want? Bill of Rights!" – referring to a union campaign for a "DHHS/Mental Health Workers Bill of Rights" that would ensure a right to "family-supporting wages."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • exwife1956 Oct 31, 2008

    All you state employees that are gettin shorted on your paychecks need to go to mary easley for a loan. I bet her paycheck ain't being short changed. Some employees can't get their whole check and mary easley traveling to another country staying in $995 a night hotel. What is wrong with this picture?

  • ginlee00 Oct 31, 2008

    Please re-read what you wrote and tell the rest of us what you said !!!
    I could not follow the run-on sentence with so many grammatical and word usage errors.

  • pbjbeach Oct 31, 2008

    The state employees of this state need to stop an think thatthis could possibly be being done to their paychecks due to the republicans being in charge of everything in this state for the last past eight years or more they are the one that instituted the purchase of the new supposely newer an better payroll an that awarded the contract for the purchase of this new system an why in order to do exactly what it is doing an that is to suppress state employees wages an to deny them their rightful pay for overtime payments so that these payroll funds could be realacated to soem contract to be paid to some coporate enity/ republicans = coporate enity been there done that but not any more an thank god i am gone

  • gordonbabe Oct 31, 2008

    Don't feel bad. The new system that UNC-CH went to the summer shorted my husband's check... and we still haven't seen the money from that check and no update on when we're going to!

  • wllmbraskey Oct 31, 2008

    Mrs Easly scams taxpayers, makes headlines almost all day yesterday with several hundred comments.

    Regular people get ripped of by state and it's barely noticed, not important i guess.


  • wllmbraskey Oct 31, 2008

    Mrs Easly needs it worse than those peasants, come on now, she has to keep up appearances.

  • Panther Oct 31, 2008

    What a scam! The governor can take lavish trips to Europe but cannot pay the workers of the state. Someone need to be fired over this mess.

  • JohnDeereGirl Oct 31, 2008

    My mother retired from the State in May and she hasn't received her first retirement check. What are they thinking?

  • whatelseisnew Oct 31, 2008

    The state signed a $28-million contract in 2006 to replace a 30-year-old human resources and payroll system. After the cost grew to $71 million and an initial testing phase, Beacon was rolled out statewide in April. Gotta love it; we forked out 71 million so that the State Employees get shorted on their pay. Leave it to Government to be able to pay that much for a broken system. Payroll systems have been around for decades. Just amazing

  • Adelinthe Oct 31, 2008

    This is shameful, mostly because it's been going on for so long.

    Either pay them right or pay them the going rate of interest on shortages. PERIOD!!!

    God bless.

    Rev. RB