Simon Ouellette | CUPE Communications

The Phoenix payroll automation system for federal public sector workers has been a fiasco, and it has an equivalent in scheduling automation in New Brunswick called Kronos. 

Originally designed for the private sector, Kronos software is used to automate the administrative processes of a Human Resources Department. On its website, the company claims its product can raise productivity, cut costs, streamline payroll and strengthen enforcement of management policies.

“Upper management claimed this state-of-the-art system was the future of time attendance, shift replacement, absence management and many other scheduling tasks. Five years and over 75 grievances later, it remains a failure. They still have not fully implemented it either,” said Norma Robinson, president of CUPE 1252, representing over 10 000 health care workers in New Brunswick. “Compared to the in-house scheduling each hospital had before, it’s not an understatement to say it’s become the “Phoenix” of scheduling,” she added.

Since the introduction of Kronos, the local has witnessed a general upsurge in inequitable scheduling, employee frustration and staff burnout. There was a marked increase in overtime issues, which to this day generates cost overruns for the employer.

“Staff training and orientation on how to use the software were rushed and botched,” said Robinson. Yet, this fact alone does not explain the lasting problems created by Kronos. The cost-cutting mandate, the removal of hospital-based schedulers and over-centralization of decision-making are at the root of the new difficulties faced by staff.

“Now that scheduling decisions are centralized in Saint John, it removes onsite decision-making powers from floor supervisors. Before, we could really factor-in the realities of the staff. The staff and middle managers worked together to patch the worst aspects of understaffing through adjusted and equitable schedules,” said Robinson.

“I think automated scheduling could work if it was created in-house for the public sector. Instead, we have a system that management uses to squeeze more from workers and keep a 24/7 bare bones schedule,” says Robinson.

The New Brunswick example should be a warning to all public sector employers wanting to automate scheduling. If employee satisfaction and quality of care are priorities, they should think twice before gutting their in-house schedulers, be it human or algorithm driven.