Employees, administrators negotiate problems as campus transitions to paperless timekeeping system

Karin Goh/Staff

When UC Berkeley senior Michelle Nelson keeps track of the hours at any of her three campus jobs, she takes care to log them multiple times — once with the campus’s new paperless timekeeping system and again in a document she prints later for her records.

The new system, CalTime — designed to streamline the myriad processes employees have used over the years to keep track of their hours — has been used by various campus departments since 2012. It aims to bring the campus greater efficiency over previous timekeeping methods, many of which were paper-based.

Under CalTime, UC Berkeley is expected to save $2.6 million annually. The project began in 2012 with an initial investment of $2.9 million, but the scope of the project and the timeline for implementation have expanded significantly since then, according to Melanie Hurley, spokesperson for Operational Excellence, the office through which CalTime is administered.

This has largely occurred due to the requirements of UCPath, an initiative from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, that aims to implement a single payroll, benefits, human resources and academic personnel solution for all UC employees. The new payroll and timekeeping system created under UCPath would replace CalTime at UC Berkeley, but according to Hurley, the campus would be unable to comply with the UCOP directive without first completing the CalTime project.

But four months after the remainder of nonexempt employees — who report their hours worked as well as leave and are eligible for overtime — transitioned to CalTime, Nelson is among many workers wary of trusting the new system.

Administration is currently in negotiations with several unions to resolve a wide range of errors employees claim to have experienced with CalTime, including misrecorded hours, vacation and sick leave accrual and sometimes pay, as well as criticism leveled at the administration for its handling of employee concerns.

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Before CalTime, UC Berkeley had used a multitude of different timekeeping processes in addition to hundreds of work rules and pay variations for employees. CalTime “brings Berkeley up to date with the timekeeping system used in most workplaces,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.

While the system promises numerous gains in efficiency — student employees can now submit and have their timecards approved online, for instance — its detractors have criticized its inability to accommodate the differing pay scales of the wide variety of jobs on campus.

Hurley said administration is currently working to clarify steps that employees and supervisors should use to make sure hours are entered correctly and to provide additional training materials to help employees enter hours for special circumstances.

“As with any transition of this size and complexity, there have been some initial challenges,” Gilmore said in an email. “But these errors have diminished significantly in recent months as the campus community becomes more familiar with the system.”

Gilmore noted that the number of manual paychecks administered due to error dropped from more than 400 in the first CalTime pay cycle to fewer than 30 in the most recent cycle.

The campus first rolled out CalTime to exempt employees, who are paid on a monthly basis and report their leave in whole-day increments. For nonexempt employees, who report their work and leave to the nearest quarter hour, transitioning to CalTime required a change from monthly paycheck to biweekly pay — a process fraught with complexities for both the administration and employees.

Though nonexempt employees were originally scheduled to begin CalTime in January 2013, administrative assessments of workers’ readiness prior to implementation led to multiple delays, in January and again in August 2014.

UC Berkeley employees were prepared for the transition with more than 100 training sessions across campus, while many large departments held additional meetings, and a website was created to guide employees through the process.

Continued concerns

Despite efforts to prepare employees, some still faced difficulty understanding how to operate the new system and communicate with the campus.

While Nelson said supervisors have been responsive, others have said attempts to contact supervisors and higher officials to resolve problems were deflected or went unanswered. Additional concerns have been raised that employees have less access to human resources officials since representatives were moved to an office off campus at Fourth Street as part of a cost-cutting and efficiency measure implemented by UC Berkeley in 2012.

“Morale is pretty much down for all workers,” said Armando Voluntad, who works within facility services on campus. “They’re disappointed in the whole CalTime system and how it doesn’t seem to be working.”

In recent months, multiple unions, including Teamsters Local 2010, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County and a union representing UCPD, have filed CalTime-related grievances — formal accusations of a breach in their bargaining agreement.

Errors in vacation and sick leave accrual have been the source of many of the grievance complaints. Unions have alleged that leave hours tallied under CalTime have been incorrectly documented or were lost entirely when employee information was transferred over to the new payroll system.

Another point of contention between the sides has been a disputed eight-hour time difference between the previous monthly system and biweekly pay under CalTime over the course of a year. Multiple unions reported in their grievances that under CalTime, certain workers would be paid eight hours fewer than the previous year.

“When you are living within a very tight line between making sure bills (are) paid and not being able to pay them, any changes to budgeting structure … impacts our members, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck,” said Matthew Mason, a representative and organizer for Teamsters Local 2010.

Rally and resolution

Despite its difficulties, Hurley said, the overall CalTime rollout has been a success.

Moving forward, she said, priorities for improvement include making the system faster and more responsive to users and allowing supervisors, who must manually edit corrections entered by employees, to more easily delegate their timekeeping duties to other members of their departments.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue between unions and the campus. On Feb. 20, a group of 20 to 25 employees took to the streets to express their grievances with CalTime, in addition to other concerns, in a rally organized by Teamsters Local 2010 and endorsed by University Professional and Technical Employees and the UC Student-Workers Union.

Later that day, Teamsters Local 2010 employees met with UC Berkeley labor relations advocate Joyce Harlan for several hours regarding their grievances, which concerned vacation and sick leave accrual and the eight-hour difference in annual hours worked.

At the meeting, representatives of the campus administration promised to provide clarification to union representatives on issues raised during the discussion within about 30 days of the meeting. Mason said that by Tuesday, they expect to receive information about how to make the accrual system easier to understand, as well as documentation to demonstrate that workers, despite the alleged difference in hours, are not being paid less than in the previous year.

Gilmore said in an email that the grievance resolutions may take some time, but that moving forward, the CalTime team plans to continue refining and improving the CalTime service.

Employees, she said, are encouraged to bring concerns with the system to their supervisor or department timekeeper or directly to a CalTime help email.

“As long as management fulfills its promise … CalTime and biweekly pay should work itself out,” Mason said.

Alex Barreira covers student life. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @abarreira_dc.