Thousands of Zurich city staff paid double salaries after suspected glitch

Thousands of Zurich city staff paid double salaries after suspected glitch

The city council of Zurich has reportedly paid up to 30.000 civil servants double their normal salary for February. However, instead of an act of kindness, a major technical glitch is said to be responsible for the payments.

Zurich pays out up to 175 million francs in error

Writing on its own intranet, the city council issued an urgent missive on February 26, notifying staff that it had accidentally paid out some salaries for February twice. While it is unclear how many of the 30.000 workers at the council have been paid double for the month, extra payments could total up to 175 million francs.

According to 20 Minuten, the issue was first noticed by an employee at the local council. Writing on the intranet earlier in the day, they said they “thought it was a bug…we probably can’t keep it, and the whole thing is now becoming extremely complicated…The fact that something like this can happen to the city of Zurich is extremely embarrassing.” 

Double salary error leads to chaos among Zurich officials

Another staff member wrote to confirm that along with salaries, bonuses and expenses were also paid out twice. Employees speaking to 20 Minuten who wished to remain anonymous reported that when the double payment was first discovered, there was “pure chaos” amongst city officials. “There are hundreds of emails and hundreds of calls, everyone is running around and no one knows exactly how this happened,” they told the newspaper.

Naturally, the announcement that they had been paid twice, albeit in error, was well received by staff. Commenting beneath the city council post, one employee exclaimed “I’m rich! Merci!”, while another said, “Thank you very much from me - feel free to repeat it.” In a reference to the looming referendum on a 13th month of pension, another joked that the bug was clearly a “pilot project for the 14th month of salary. Thank you very much.”

Zurich city workers are requested to pay their salaries back

City officials confirmed that it was in close discussions with providers and the tax authorities, to clarify what they should do legally regarding the extra payment. In what will be sad news to those who were paid twice, a spokesperson for the council stated that employees “are obliged” to pay the extra salary back.

However, many at the council are reportedly ready to dispute paying the money back, with one employee telling 20 Minuten, “They say clearly that they want to keep the money because the mistake was on our part and they are entitled to it. People are really willing to fight for the money.” 

Faulty software blamed for double payment error in Zurich

Regarding what caused the error, initially, the spokesperson for the council said that a “technical processing error at Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) was responsible." However, a representative from the Swiss bank then told 20 Minuten that an error in a piece of software created by Swisscom - the internet and mobile phone provider - was the actual source of the double payment. 

For their part, Swisscom wrote in a statement that while investigations into the error are ongoing, they are in close contact with both ZKB and the city council to find a quick solution. “Swisscom is aware of the explosive nature of this incident and apologises for the inconvenience caused,” it concluded.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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