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Anger over payroll foul-ups at Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters staff in the United States are angry over late payments in their paychecks following outsourcing of payroll administration.

The Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents hundreds of unionised editorial employees in the United States, said in an open letter to Thomson Reuters chief executive James Smith on Monday: “Dear Jim, Are your paychecks being processed correctly? Because ours aren’t.”

It said the company that has taken over pay, Hewitt, “appears to fall into the payroll equivalent of a polar vortex. The system freezes, you can’t get a straight answer from the first-name-only person who answers the helpline, and complaint emails generate a swirl of ticket numbers that refer employees to other ticket numbers that refer back to the original ticket numbers.”

Just last week, it said, some union members were told that due to a technical issue, overtime and differentials would not be paid until the next pay period. “This comes at a particularly difficult time for Reuters editorial staff. Following the departure of 30 of their colleagues at the end of last year under an enhanced buyout program, Guild members have been asked to work extra hours and days to maintain the level of coverage and expertise for which Reuters is known and to keep stories moving to subscribers in a timely and accurate fashion.”

A senior editor who asked not to be named told The Baron: “People in the New York newsroom, many of whom have been working very long hours lately, are very angry about this.”

The Guild said the latest example of payroll incompetence followed major errors in 2012 and 2013 when Guild-covered employees were either over- or under-paid by significant amounts, and were (again) not paid for approved overtime. Guild representatives were reporting an increase in the number of individual payroll errors, particularly for overtime and time off.

“The seemingly never-ending problems with payroll are affecting members’ pockets as well as morale. For those who volunteer to work weekends and stay late, not being paid in full is a disincentive to volunteer for extra hours. The end of January brings financial deadlines for many – not just mortgages but holiday bills, summer camp deposits and other costs that now must be covered from savings. In addition, pushing the missing pay to the next pay period may trigger a higher tax rate.”

The Guild added: “We’ve been told by a Reuters representative that payroll is reviewing how the error occurred but it is ‘very much a one-off problem’ that is not expected to reoccur. While we sincerely hope this is the case, our experience with Hewitt does not inspire confidence.

“Jim, with all the problems that outsourcing payroll to Hewitt is generating, is it really worth it?”

Two weeks ago Thomson Reuters told employees it was postponing the effective date for those receiving discretionary salary increases by three months to 1 July from 1 April.  ■

The Newspaper Guild of New York