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In a major restructuring shake-up this week, the University laid off the entire staff of its payroll office—approximately two dozen workers. Most of the employees were offered new jobs in the office, though at least three were fired.
The change comes several months after the University implemented the electronic Peoplesoft payroll system as a step in its long-term overhaul of human resources operations.
“The payroll office has been completely reorganized as part of the effort to modernize the administrative system of which the Peoplesoft effort was a part,” said Marilyn D. Touborg, director of communications for Harvard’s Office of Human Resources. “It has been in the works for some time.”
Since the new system’s implementation this fall, the payroll office has come under fire from students and full-time employees alike, who complained of late and missing paychecks.
But Touborg said the shake-up was not a response to glitches in the early stages of Peoplesoft’s implementation.
“It is an expectation that there will be some [change] that will occur,” she said. “It doesn’t have to do with whether the implementation is smooth or not smooth.”
In fact, the new system will run more effectively as a result of the changes, she said.
“New jobs have been created, many of them at a higher level to ensure that the office has staff with analytical skills that are now necessary,” she said. “The jobs are just of a different configuration—they’ve changed job descriptions.”
Representatives for the Harvard University Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) union, which represents the majority of the University’s secretaries, librarians and office workers, declined to comment specifically about the personnel changes.
According to Touborg, the University is helping those employees who were not offered new jobs to find employment elsewhere.
“They have been offered severance pay and full support including career counseling, training and outplacement services as needed to get them a job within the University or help them get a job outside,” Touborg said.
Former HUCTW president Kris Rondeau, who still participates in the union’s negotiations with the University, said it was difficult to discern the reasons behind the changes.
“It’s just too soon to tell whether this is about technological change or more complex than that,” she said.
HUCTW Vice President Gloria Buffonge said it was unlikely that new technology was jeopordizing University jobs.
“Our union is actually growing,” she said.
Employees from the payroll office could not be reached for comment last night.
Jeffrey Booth, a Harvard College Library employee and a former HUCTW representative, said the changes seemed illogical.
“Why are they firing people if they can’t get their act together on payroll?” he asked. “If you really want to provide an efficient and effective system at a time when you’re changing, that would be the time to add people, not to fire them.”
—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at email@example.com.
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