UC Berkeley not in compliance with 2015 fair wage plan, internal audit finds

Audrey McNamara/File
Members of AFSCME Local 3299 congregated at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue in October 2015 to protest UC Berkeley’s conduct toward contract workers.

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In 2015, UC President Janet Napolitano announced a plan that guaranteed a $15 minimum wage by October 2017 for all new workers contracted by the UC system. About two years later, an internal audit of UC Berkeley found the campus to be “not yet compliant” with the plan’s requirements.

The audit reviewed a sample of five suppliers that UC Berkeley contracts employees from, according to a copy of the audit report obtained by The Daily Californian. The five suppliers were expected to show campus by spring 2017 that they were in compliance with the 2015 UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan, but none provided certification by that date. After the campus followed up with the suppliers, two of them sent the campus invalid certification forms signed by executives of the supplier instead of by independent auditors.

The problems detailed in the UC Berkeley audit are not unique to the campus — internal audit reports from across UC campuses confirm that monitoring compliance with the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan is a widespread issue.

“It’s a horrifying situation that we have going on,” said John de los Angeles, a spokesperson for AFSCME Local 3299, the UC system’s largest employee union. “In 2015, when they announced the (UC) Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan … it was all a public relations stunt, a smoke screen.”

According to UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore, however, the campus has been “diligent” in updating its suppliers on minimum wage requirements detailed in the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan. Gilmore added that the campus has “no reason to believe” that its suppliers aren’t paying employees the appropriate wages.

By December 2018, UC Berkeley aims to have a formal process in place to address concerns raised by the audit, which could include terminating contracts with suppliers that don’t prove to the campus that they are following UC policy, Gilmore said in an email.

But De los Angeles said he believed the results of the internal audits are in line with a broader trend of negligence in the UC system. He cited three scathing state audits of the university released this year — one of which specifically criticized the UC system for mishandling contract workers.

UC Berkeley and UC Davis have also come under fire for paying former chancellors near-full salaries. Nicholas Dirks is being paid $434,000 by UC Berkeley through the 2017-18 academic year — more than 80 percent of his pay as the campus’s former chancellor — even though he is on sabbatical until fall 2018.

“Those at the top are being enriched, and those at the bottom are really suffering,” De los Angeles said. “The UC is getting away from its core public mission.”

The UC will continue enforcing annual campus audits to strengthen compliance with the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work requirements across the system, said UC spokesperson Claire Doan in an email. Doan added that it is important to note that some suppliers’ noncompliance with the plan may be a result of costs associated with hiring an external audit firm to prove compliance. According to Doan, the UC is in the process of identifying smaller audit firms that would be able to offer suppliers a “lower cost” certification option.

The university anticipates that by Dec. 31, it will have clarified and reinforced expectations of compliance with the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work plan at each UC campus, Doan added.

“(There are) a lot of little intricacies that make a plan like this difficult,” said Rafi Sands, student adviser to the UC Board of Regents. “There have been mistakes made. … It takes time to get these things right.”

Harini Shyamsundar is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.