PORTLAND, Maine — Representatives from the city’s firefighters union say a new public administration software system designed to streamline payroll for the department has instead burdened the force with extra duties.
The union has filed a grievance on behalf of its 911 dispatchers claiming the software has not only created more work, but shifted payroll responsibilities to their supervisors who they say haven’t properly been trained to administer it.
“This has placed unfair expectations and an unfair burden on the members of the unit,” according to the grievance signed by four members of IAFF Local 740, the Portland Firefighters union.
It violates the union’s agreement with the city, they say, because it alters pay and working conditions, which is protected under their collective-bargaining contract.
In late December, the City of Portland switched to new payroll and scheduling systems designed to simplify payroll calculations for city employees and allow municipal governments to better manage overtime, job costs and labor data.
Departments with nontraditional schedules — such as fire and police departments — say the new software experiences issues tracking hours across a 24/7 work schedule and requires that department supervisors enter in workers’ timesheets manually.
“The same problem exists for dispatchers and police officers,“ said Chris Thomson, president of the firefighters union, adding that the issue could potentially cause legal fees and damage assessments for the errors.
“Our payroll clerks should not have to work an 18-hour day to navigate ‘work arounds’ so that we can be paid correctly,” Thomson said.
Union members wrote in their grievance that the system has “forced us into a payroll clerk position role, whereas we now have to learn payroll codes, know what payroll codes apply to dispatch, and to accomplish these tasks in a short time frame.”
Some say the extra labor expectation has delayed their paychecks, but a city spokesperson said there have been no cases of late-issued payments. The spokesperson confirmed they had received the grievance but were unable to comment on it because of confidentiality agreements.
Both the city’s new payroll software — called Munis — and scheduling software — known as Executime — were implemented on Dec. 22 after several years of planning. The programs are operated by the national company Tyler Technologies, which has offices in Yarmouth and Falmouth.
Councilors approved the proposal to implement the Tyler Technologies software in November of 2016 at the cost of just more than $2 million up front, with additional costs that bring the total to $5.3 million, according to public documents.
Tyler Technologies also is under contract to help oversee a citywide property revaluation process expected to be completed this spring.
A spokesperson from Tyler Technologies did not immediately respond to comment.