Ferry workers threaten to walk off job after payroll shortfalls

New payroll system can’t track all the variables on workers’ pay claims

A new payroll system has been short-changing ferry employees in British Columbia for the past month.

A B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers union official is worried that workers might walk of the job if the B.C. Ferry Services’ Aug. 31 paycheques aren’t accurate or fail to make up for all wages owing. That would leave the ferry service in the lurch for the Labour Day long weekend.

The ferry company introduced its new Smart-Time “workforce management” computer program in late June for the July 15 pay period, replacing its old Tides payment program.

The new system, which a company spokesperson said was tested for two months before being implemented, has been unable to track the variables on workers’ pay claims. This has resulted in unionized workers’ being short some or all of their money in their paycheques.

The union, which sees the mix-up as a reason the ferry service should be under the scrutiny of the provincial auditor-general, is encouraging all workers to stay on the job and give the ferry company time to fix its mess.

Another fear is that the workers might arrest a ferry — essentially holding it as collateral until all wages have been settled in what’s known as a maritime lien.

The company has reinstated the Tides program, issued 600 emergency cheques, and reassigned dozens of staff to resolve the payroll problem. The ferry service still plans to redeploy Smart-Time, but not until October at the earliest.

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