UCPath has left employees facing financial instability

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: Student workers should have been prioritized in payroll program implementation

Illustration of hands holding a check in front of Sather Gate
Alexander Hong/Senior Staff

The new UC-wide payroll system has created financial instability for hundreds of university employees.

As a result of bugs in the new system, which launched at different campuses throughout 2018 and 2019, numerous UC employees experienced problems with payment. In some cases, their payment amounts have been inaccurate, and checks have come in late or not at all. Despite these problems occurring at multiple campuses, UC administration continued to transition campuses to UCPath.

UC Berkeley administrators were aware of these systemic problems before the program was introduced to the campus. Campus representatives met with the UC Student-Workers Union, which expressed opposition to UCPath. But though campus administrators were open to conversation with employees, they chose to implement the program anyway — despite the problems it had created at UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara.

This decision to continue with UCPath prioritized a quick launch of the program over the needs of university employees. The existing system, which was decades old, needed to be updated — but it should not have been launched with the number of errors that were surfacing. Compensation for the labor of university employees should not have been put in jeopardy by this massively flawed payroll system.

The paycheck discrepancies that occurred as a result of UCPath put employees’ quality of life at stake. Checks being wrong, or not showing up entirely, led to a community of UC workers having no money for basic necessities like rent and groceries for months at a time. In these circumstances, employees are left living in uncertainty about when they will receive their earnings, if at all.

The situation was dire enough that California legislators stepped in to demand fixes to the payroll program. Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, went as far as to call the problems a “disaster for workers.” The California Senate has additionally passed a bill, SB 698, which would make late payments to student workers illegal. The bill, sponsored by multiple student unions, passed in the Senate at the end of May and is to be voted on in the state Assembly by the end of the summer.

And it makes sense that state government has intervened — the UC system is, after all, the largest employer in the state of California. This reality makes the implementation of the malfunctioning payroll system all the more problematic. UC officials should have considered the enormity of the impact that failures in the program would have long before they launched it — and prepared to respond quickly to such a scenario.

UC Berkeley, and the other campuses within the UC system, run because of their employees. Employee financial stability needs to be a top priority for UC administrators. While student employees have taken an active role in voicing their concerns with the system and pushing for its improvement and for compensation, employees deserve to have a system that functions in the first place.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editors.