Other municipalities using the same salary system cause harm to city workers in Helsinki

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The CEO of the technology systems company says the main problem is adequate training.

Archive photo of Helsinki City Hall. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

In just a few months, communities in Finland will begin work on the welfare services provinces that will replace the country’s old system of hundreds of individual municipal social and health services.

If that happens early next year, more than 200,000 people will effectively have new employers who pay them for their work.

Nearly half of Finland’s 21 new welfare provinces plan to use the same salary payment system that has continued to be a major problem since its introduction in Helsinki in the spring.

Due to problems with the payroll database system, many workers in the capital are unpaid, underpaid, and there have even been instances where former employees were paid for work they did not do.

The problems in the city of Helsinki, Finland’s largest employer, continued into the summer.

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The Minister of Local Government, Sirpa Paatero (SDP), Yle told Sunday she wants to receive a comprehensive report on the problems in Helsinki so that similar problems do not arise as social and health care reforms are implemented.

Experience with system since 2021

Some of the areas using – or in the process of rolling out – the system that has caused so many headaches for city workers in the capital include Western Uusimaa, Vantaa and Kerava.

Kimmo Sarekoskicdirector of HR preparation for Western Uusimaa’s welfare services, said he has been monitoring the difficulties in Helsinki with some concern.

However, the region started using the system, made by IT company Sarastia, in early 2021. But unlike Helsinki, which uses the system exclusively, Espoo uses it only partially and does the rest of the work internally.

“Espoo has been using the system since last year and 60 percent of our payments have been made with that system,” he explains.

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“This will probably make us see fewer mistakes,” Sarekoski said.

CEO: good training, data transfer essential

Mika KantolaThe CEO of Sarastia, the company behind the payroll database system, said he sympathized with Helsinki city employees who have been dealing with salary problems in recent months, but that there is nothing wrong with the technology itself.

“The system pays salaries based on the information entered into it,” he said.

Kantola noted that it is not easy to build large, new operations from scratch and said it is very important to train staff and get them used to new routines.

He added that he is not concerned that the system will be strained by the heavy workload when welfare countries start using the system seriously.

Another matter is that the regional services get the new system up and running with the correct transfer of data from old databases.

“Of course, together with our customers, we will correct any errors as soon as possible,” said Kantola.

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Big change

In the meantime, Anne Sivulathe province’s HR preparation director in Vantaa and Kerava said she was concerned about the problems in Helsinki.

However, the transition to setting up the Vantaa and Kerava welfare region will be easier as the city of Kerava already uses Sarastia for its salary needs.

“The payroll employees don’t have to learn a new system,” she explains.

Despite this, Sivula acknowledged that setting up the welfare district will still require a lot of effort because while Kerava uses Sarastia for its payroll, Vantaa’s social and health services currently shares a different system with the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS).

However, she said that the dialogue with the Sarastia company has been ongoing.

“This will inevitably be a big change. Things may not be perfect at the start of the year, but work is underway to make the transition as smooth as possible for employees,” said Sivula.

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