UCPath representatives spoke to UCLA student workers Thursday about how to resolve ongoing payroll issues after nearly an entire quarter of complaints about being paid incorrectly.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council, the Graduate Students Association and United Auto Workers Local 2865 organized a town hall in which student workers spoke with representatives from the UCLA UCPath team and the UCLA Central Resource Unit, the office that assesses reports of UCPath issues, about how to resolve their individual complaints about the payroll system.
UAW Local 2865 represents over 12,000 UC student workers, including Academic Advancement Program Peer Learning facilitators and College Academic Mentors. UCPath, a new payroll system implemented in September, has led several student employees to receive incorrect paychecks or not receive paychecks at all.
Resident assistants, researchers from various departments and undergraduate Peer Learning facilitators attended the town hall and raised issues such as the lack of clarity regarding who to contact to resolve payroll issues, student workers not receiving paychecks for a second job and CRU closing unresolved cases after four days.
Ricardo Vazquez, a UCLA spokesperson, said in an email statement that UCLA is providing instant pay cards, emergency pay advances and off-cycle checks for student workers experiencing pay issues.
Vazquez added that errors ranging from missing paychecks to disenrollment from benefit plans have affected about 2 percent of UCLA’s employees.
Michelle Viorato, the GSA external vice president, said emergency loans have been particularly inaccessible to certain students.
“Currently, graduate student researchers and teacher assistants are the only ones eligible for interest-free loans that meet the same amount they are supposed to get paid,” she said. “This leaves most undergraduate and some graduate students who are earning more than $350 per paycheck out of luck.”
Viorato added she thinks UCLA failed to support students who are most vulnerable to extreme financial instability.
“The university needs to determine how it will offer reparations to students who have faced eviction, had to take out high-interest loan offers and build their credit card debt,” she said.
The town hall included a Q&A session that allowed students to directly ask UCPath representatives questions. Claire Fieldman, USAC president, and Jamie Kennerk, USAC’s external vice president, were among the undergraduate and graduate students who voiced concerns.
The representatives at the town hall said there was no policy in place that would close unresolved cases in four days. However, Kennerk said this conflicted with information she had received from program directors and the UCLA UCPath team.
“So now that I’m hearing that that’s not how it works, I’m confused, and I think that we all need more light spread on what the actual case system looks like,” Kennerk said.
Kennerk added that solving the current payroll problems has been challenging because the new system is decentralized.
“UCPath doesn’t directly control everything,” she said in a separate interview. “It’s been hard to hold people directly accountable, which has complicated both student advocacy as well as UCPath’s ability to triage issues.”
Several of those in attendance asked what UCPath will do to help student workers who have explored all available resources but still cannot resolve their payroll and financial issues.
A UCPath representative said UCPath did not anticipate the issues student workers are experiencing and will adjust by providing better customer service.
The representatives’ presentation said students can receive loans from University Credit Union, Student Loan Services and Collections, and UCLA Graduate Division.
However, David Tuyo, a University Credit Union representative, said there is a cap on the amount students can receive if they opt for a short-term loan. UCU increased the maximum loan amount from $350 to $500 in light of student workers reporting payroll issues, but Tuyo said he thinks this is still not enough for many students.
“We don’t have a giant pot of money,” Tuyo said. “My heart goes out to those who need more than the $500 cap on short-term loans.”
Yunyi Li, the UCLA campus chair for UAW Local 2864 union, said UC Riverside and UC Merced, which implemented UCPath in January, experienced similar issues with the new system.
Li said the town hall provided useful but redundant information and added she thought UCLA acted in negligence by failing to resolve issues with UCPath before implementing the system at UCLA and treating the problems as an issue of customer service.
Anais Lopez, a third-year political science student, said she skipped a class to attend the town hall.
“Thursday of 10th week is very inconvenient for most students. It’s almost asking students not to go in a way,” Lopez said. “Although we want our money, we also need to get our grades, and we need to go to office hours and talk to our TAs and go to classes.”
Li and Lopez both said they were concerned about the number of students who work two jobs but have only received paychecks for one since the implementation of UCPath.
Lopez added students who work two jobs did not experience pay issues with the previous payroll system.
UCPath and CRU representatives said they were interested in hosting future information sessions, but stated they have yet to schedule another one. The UC Office of the President said in an email statement that additional staff and resources for troubleshooting UCPath issues will remain available at UCLA until the end of the academic year.