A payroll system error has found casual workers at two of New South Wales’ biggest zoos are owed millions of dollars in back pay.
Taronga Zoo told workers on Friday morning they were acting to address $2.6 million in “historic underpayments” to 902 current and former casual staff at both their Sydney and Dubbo zoos.
The problem was identified from a new payroll system implemented in February 2021, with Taronga also investigating the previous payroll system spanning back six years.
In a statement Taronga Chief Executive Cameron Kerr apologised to the staff who had been affected, and said back pay would begin in July.
“Our people are the most important part of our organisation, and I am deeply sorry that this error has occurred,” he said.
“Ideally, we would have picked up the issue of underpayments earlier.
“But disappointingly, amid the disruptions of COVID-19 and managing the introduction and embedding of the new payroll system, the shortfalls were missed.”
The payments will include interest of six per cent and superannuation at 11 per cent. Correction of the payroll system configuration will also begin from July 13.
However, the Australian Workers Union representing staff across both zoos said the error would not have been identified if it had not pushed for an audit.
The union’s NSW branch secretary, Tony Callinan, said the push came after maintenance workers at Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo came forward “fed up” with incorrect pay, leave amounts and ongoing problems with the payroll system for over 18 months.
The concerns led to 40 workers in Dubbo taking 24-hour industrial action in November last year.
“Initially, management were completely dismissive of our members’ concerns.
“They didn’t want to engage with the AWU as their representative, which is why we took the unusual step of having some industrial action back in November last year,” he said.
He said feedback from members was that the process had improved, and they were satisfied they were getting paid correctly.
“It’s never good to see underpayments, but at least now those casual workers will get this money and hopefully that’ll take a bit of the cost of living pressures off them.”
In response, Taronga Zoo said the issues raised by the union were separate and related to configuration issues with the new payroll system.