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Canberra IT workers out of pocket after payroll company halts operations

Canberra IT contractors are out of pocket thousands of dollars and unable to work after payroll company Plutus Payroll stopped their payments, blaming a commercial dispute. 

The decision has hit IT contractors opting to use the company's payroll services for work completed at public service departments and corporates after registering with recruitment agencies.

Contractors chasing unpaid money have been unable to contact the company, which charges no fees for transferring wages, while recruitment agencies have scrambled to switch them to other payroll systems.

In an email to clients on Tuesday, Plutus moved to quell rumours it was in administration, saying it had 'responsibly' decided to suspend its operations as a commercial dispute stopped it from making payments.

It did not give any description of the dispute and did not respond to questions from Fairfax on Wednesday.

"We are actively and tirelessly working to resolve this issue and we apologise again for the inconvenience that it has caused," it said. 

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Plutus told contractors that payments scheduled on April 27 and 28, and May 1 and 2 had not been deposited as it halted operations.

Hays recruitment agency confirmed its Canberra contractors were hit by Plutus' decision. 

"We have contacted each of the relevant independent contractors asking them if they want to nominate an alternate company. We have not remitted any funds to Plutus since the announcement," a spokeswoman said.

Randstad has offered support to workers using Plutus to find an alternative payroll arrangement, while PeopleBank has moved contractors to its own payroll system after contacting more than 100 using the suspended service.

Canberra IT contractor Tim Cole is waiting for $2500 in wages and $1500 in superannuation after Plutus failed to pay him. 

He said he was unable to work until changing payroll companies as he was unprotected by workers compensation and it was uncertain whether Plutus paid insurance charges before it suspended wage payments.

"It's all become unknown because no-one can contact them to see what their insurance policy is - whether it's expired or anything like that, we just don't know," he said. 

"Publicly, they're not being very forthcoming."

Mr Cole said because Plutus' decision fell at the end of the month, it left people owed a monthly payment without their wages.

"There's people in a much worse situation than I am," he said. 

"The timing of it to hit on the end of the monthly period has really hurt a lot of people."

He expects to change payroll companies by Friday but he's unsure how he will receive the money owed to him.

"If we become unsecured creditors, where do we stand in the queue to get that money back?" Mr Cole said.

Plutus has told clients it would pay them "as soon as we have a positive resolution in our commercial dispute".