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Fairfax plans payroll overhaul

Three years after Fairfax Media bought Rural Press for $9 billion, the media giant is planning a revamp of Rural's legacy payroll and rostering system, expecting to move to an Aurion and Microster platform in the next 12-24 months.

Fairfax has been using these systems in some areas since 2005, and according to Trish Bell, systems manager for Fairfax's human resource management solution, the wheels are now in motion to roll out the solution to cover employees currently paid by Rural's old legacy application, Paywell. The Paywell application, sold now by Affinity in Australia, has been in use at Rural Press for around 18 years.

Bell explained that the Aurion and Microster systems had survived the acid test of the industrial relations changes introduced as part of the Government's move to the Fair Work Australia IR regime, by delivering the flexibility needed to manage those changes.

The introduction of a slew of new modern industrial awards in January as part of Fair Work Australia regime had some industrial relations experts predicting compliance headaches for some firms, but Bell believes the company's technology is ensuring it remains on the side of the industrial angels.

At a presentation earlier this month Fairfax ceo Brian McCarthy said Fairfax Media currently controls 429 publications, 280 websites, 15 radio stations and 24 printing operations.  According to the most recent annual report the company employs 8,979 full time employees (almost 1,000 fewer than the year before) and 1,828 part time or casual workers.

The challenge for such a diverse organisation is to ensure that all employees, many of whom are covered by industrial awards, receive appropriate pay and working conditions as set out under their awards. While the modern industrial awards should eventually lead to a more streamlined system, during the transition period of around five years, companies like Fairfax will have to manage employees covered by existing enterprise awards, employees moving onto new modern awards, and employees not covered by awards.

If it does not pay them in accordance with the award it could find itself in industrial hot water.

Bell said that managing this would have been a challenge without a system as flexible as Aurion.  This had been coupled with ComOps' Microster workforce management system which was being used for award interpretation - currently for employees covered by six industrial awards.

'We built rules into Microster. It looks at the shift and references the rules about things such as how long someone has worked, the hours involved, any overtime and shift penalties and then it adds loading. We then feed that into Aurion to manage the pay,' said Bell.

At present Microster is being used to manage two printing agreements in Melbourne, The Age clerical workers, casual printers at Chullora, and casual editorial and clerical workers in Sydney.

Besides the Rural Press rollout, Fairfax Media now also plans to deploy Microster more widely in order to rein in workforce administration overheads. Ultimately, all employees working in editorial will get paid directly from their rosters.


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