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Union officials: Payroll problems continue for Md. government employees

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State Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley announced in June the discovery of an error as the state implemented a modern electronic payroll system across more than five dozen agencies. Now, union officials say another problem has surfaced.

Dozens of employees who are part of the state’s largest government employee union have not received the right amount of base pay or overtime in two months, union officials said Tuesday.

Officials for AFSCME said Tuesday that more than 85 people have either not received checks or not been paid the correct base salaries over the last eight weeks. Others have not been paid for overtime worked over the same period. AFSCME officials said the state has been slow to correct the issue as the holidays approach.

This is wage theft,” said Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland Council 3. “While this money is sitting around, the state is collecting interest and employees are paying more interest on credit cards and not being able to make their car and mortgage payments.”

Moran said the union believes the issue is directly related to a modernized payroll system implemented earlier this year that may have underpaid as many as 13,000 state employees.

Officials at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said the issue is well-known and the union is “unnecessarily alarming their employees.”

“This is an issue that affects less than 1 percent of the 10,000 employees here at the department,” said Gary McIlhinney, director of professional standards for the department.

McIlhinney said the department will be prepared to provide hand-written payroll checks to any employee who does not receive their full base salary for the 80-hour workweek. Overtime pay, which he said could not be predicted for the last two weeks that include two state holidays, will be paid out by Dec. 14.

Additionally, McIlhinney said, the agency has already paid employees who were underpaid in the previous three pay periods, though he said he could not guarantee that everyone had received their overtime pay.

“I cannot say that 100 percent of employees have received their overtime pay,” McIlhinney said. “I can tell you we are doing everything we can to ensure that employees are paid for the hours they work and will continue to do it until every employee gets the pay they earned. It is never acceptable that an employee doesn’t get the pay they earned, and we’re working overtime to ensure that it happens.”

McIlhinney acknowledged that the problems stem from the new payroll system. He also attributed some of the problems to illegible time cards and clerical errors. Additionally, McIlhinney said, the department’s efforts to correct the issue were hampered by threats aimed at payroll employees, who had to be moved out of Baltimore to defuse the situation.

McIlhinney said the union is “spinning the issue to suit their own agenda.”

This is the second known issue related to a new payroll system rolled out earlier this year.

State Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley announced in June the discovery of the error as the state implemented a modern electronic payroll system across more than five dozen agencies. Discrepancies amounting to between $2 and $30 per person per pay period became evident during the testing phase of the new system.

The majority of the problems then appeared to be limited to roughly a half-dozen agencies and departments with 24-hour employees, including the Maryland State Police and the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Juvenile Services, General Services and correctional employees within Public Safety and Correctional Services — employees who are represented by AFSCME.

Eric Shirk, a spokesman at the Department of Budget and Management, said the agency is still working on resolving payroll issues identified in June.

“It was a lot less pervasive than we thought,” Shirk said, adding that a hotline set up by the department received roughly 100 complaints.

Shirk said those cases have not yet been resolved as the agency awaits additional information from employees and conducts its own internal review.

The new payroll issue “appears to be a localized issue, and we haven’t gotten any other complaints from employees in other agencies,” Shirk said.


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