More than a year after the campus deployment of the payroll system UCPath, postdoctoral students and academic researchers continue to experience payroll errors, according to several members of the Union of Postdocs and Academic Researchers, or UAW Local 5810.
Neal Sweeney, vice president of UAW Local 5810, said many people have been underpaid or paid weeks late. He added that some employees were unable to enroll in health benefits through UCPath when they started working and others have had their benefits canceled without warning.
“From a university side, this may seem like simple bureaucratic errors, but this has real substantial consequences for people who are not getting paid on time or receiving those necessary benefits,” said Ambika Kamath, a campus postdoctoral researcher and head steward at UAW Local 5810.
According to Sweeney, some UAW Local 5810 members are being underpaid by more than $10,000 at UC Berkeley on a monthly basis. For UAW workers, these late payments can mean falling behind on rent or being unable to fund basic needs.
These effects are “scary and distressing,” especially during a pandemic that has led to an uncertain economic situation, where the lack of health benefits cause a lot of stress, anxiety and fear.
“Simultaneously with correcting mistakes that have been made up until this point with accurate and timely payment, whatever systemic fixes are needed to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future, UC should be taking those steps,” Kamath said.
Campus postdoctoral student and union steward Stacey Frederick said she did not know she was not employed until she stopped getting paychecks and was unable to access her email.
According to Frederick, this issue had happened to her before and had taken months without a union to resolve.
“It’s strange that you can spend months working and not get paid,” Frederick said. “Having just one month without a paycheck can really affect us personally.”
UC Office of the President spokesperson Stett Holbrook said many of the issues that arise with systemwide upgrades like UCPath can only be identified and addressed after the system is “live and operational.” According to the UCPath website, the last four deployments are scheduled for this year.
In Oct. 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 698, which requires the UC system to have the same payroll protections as private employers in order to prioritize accurate and timely payment.
Kamath said it is “really great” that those legal protections exist now. She added, however, that she hopes these issues are resolved before legal protections are necessary as widespread payroll problems should not exist in the first place.
“UC did its best to process payroll promptly and accurately prior to SB 698’s passage and will continue to do so,” Holbrook said in an email. “We will continue to diligently apply lessons learned and best practices to quickly identify and resolve problems.”