Kerry
Packer’s media group PBL will produce a record profit on Thursday but some
people in his ACP publishing business are wondering whether anyone in
management or on the board cares about whether they are paid in a timely and
proper way.
The
problems of the Nine Network pay office and other concerns at ACP have been
raised on Crikey during this year, with news last month of a help desk being
established at ACP to be staffed during the day to handle problems. This was to
ease the flood of inquiries from staff about pay problems – read more here: ACP finally addresses pay “issues”.

And at Nine
the pay office was re-opened around two months ago (it was closed at the end of
2003) after David Gyngell became CEO and realised the extent of the appalling
problems with pay and other issues, such as holiday and roster details.

And these
have gradually eased at Willoughby. And at Park Street it was felt the help desk would
assist in handling the pressure of queries. But late last week the mother of all stuff-ups was revealed
when the following notice was placed on the ACP Bulletin board:

If
you do not have an ANZ bank account you may experience some delays in your
fortnightly pay being deposited into your bank account. This was a result of
communication difficulties with ANZ.

Please be patient as the bank works to get this money into your account
as soon as possible tomorrow (Friday 20th August).
We apologise for any inconvenience.

Regards Pay Office.

And from
the Bulletin board today, Monday August 23:

Dear Employee

Following on from the email sent last night we
would like to clarify the situation covering this weeks payrun.

Due to communication difficulties that affected
processing of salary/wage payments at ANZ overnight there has been a delay in
the transfer of funds to certain employee accounts.

Most of you should have now received your funds,
however, the bank has notified us that certain smaller banks and credit unions
may not process the transfer of funds into bank accounts until this evening.

We fully understand and regret any inconvenience that
this may have caused staff. ACP is totally committed to reimbursing staff
for any adverse financial impact that this delay may cause

Subject to reasonable supporting evidence, amounts
will be reimbursed almost immediately. Any amounts below $100 can be claimed
through petty cash using an expense claim form. Amounts greater than this
should be communicated to (two people named) at Park
Street.

Should you have any queries, please feel free to contact your finance
manager for more information.

Regards Pay Office.

Paying
people on time and the correct amount is perhaps the most important point of an
employer-employee contract, written or otherwise. It ranks with occupational
health and safety, freedom from bullying and harassment and good working
conditions. But being
paid in most cases makes it worth coming to work day after day.

So
therefore every employer has the responsibility to pay employees in a timely
and regular fashion. That has been a bit of a hit and miss affair at PBL, and
especially at Nine and ACP, since the new pay system and the Kiosk human
resources information system went ‘live’ earlier this year.

It could be
a ‘peoplesoft’ problem (the Enterprise Resource Planning software now running
across the PBL businesses providing information to managers).

But I
wonder if any executives at PBL, Nine or ACP have been affected like many
monthly and fortnightly employees have.

Or it could
be inside the ANZ bank, which is the PBL banker, or in the interface between
the ACP pay system and the ANZ bank.

All pays
and other payments are run through a Brisbane branch of the ANZ because Queensland does not have state taxes on bank
deposits or transactions. Therefore it saves PBL money to do this than
pay through an ANZ branch in Sydney or Melbourne.

Kerry and
James Packer don’t take any fees or salary for working at PBL and helping
steer it (they collected a very nice dividend. Thursday will see that figure
probably in excess of $120 million), so you can bet that they are not feeling the
impact of this monumental failure.

It’s not
that ACP, PBL or Nine are poor or cannot meet the payroll. It is a hugely
wealthy and cash flow rich company at the moment. It’s just no one thinks it
important that these problems should not have happened in the first place,
allowed to persist for so long, or be allowed to develop where employees at ACP
had to go cap in hand with receipts and various other piece of paper, to get
weekly, fortnightly or monthly bills paid. It’s appalling.