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Editorial: UCPath needs to pave a smoother road for University employees

By Editorial Board

Nov. 18, 2018 11:29 p.m.

Step one for creating a payroll system: make sure it works.

That’s where we seemed to have lost the University of California.

After four years of delays and mishaps, you would be forgiven for thinking the worst was over for the UC Payroll, Academic Personnel, Timekeeping and Human Resources. The University has touted UCPath for years as an efficient, centralized payment system that could greatly reduce spending.

But seven years after its initiative began, the University outdid itself: UCPath jeopardized hundreds of students’ and workers’ livelihoods by failing to pay them for almost two months.

The UC’s game of payroll limbo follows a history of botchery. In 2015, just four years after the project began, the UC announced delays to the system’s launch would cause an increase in initial costs by $45 million. The state released an audit in August of 2017 claiming the implementation of UCPath would cost $942 million, rather than the UC’s estimated $504 million. And before system rollout at UCLA in December 2017, the University announced another delay to allow for more testing.

The testing didn’t seem to help much. Two months after UCPath finally launched in Westwood, a number of UCLA employees – including teaching assistants, graders and tutors – reported missing or incorrect payments.

This ought to be the final straw for the University’s mishandling of UCPath. While previous mishaps in the implementation of UCPath were localized to just straining the UC’s budget, the latest error has directly impacted the lives of students and workers.

The United Auto Workers Local 2865 union, for example, which represents teaching assistants, tutors and readers, reported that more than 100 tutors have gone six weeks without receiving pay. The union also said hundreds of teaching assistants did not get their expected Nov. 1 payment.

University Council-AFT Los Angeles Local 1990, a union which represents UC librarians and non-Senate faculty, said a number of lecturers missed out on payments or received less than expected because of UCPath, compromising their ability to pay rent, insurance and other monthly expenses on time.

And UCLA medical residents reported being shortchanged up to $1,200 by the University on promised stipends. UCLA appeared to blame UCPath for its slow response to residents’ concerns.

The UC’s latest bungling is unacceptable, especially in a city like Los Angeles with a high cost of living. A number of students and employees live paycheck to paycheck, and the University’s inability to sort out its payroll behemoth is putting livelihoods at stake.

Moreover, missed payments are only the most blatant issues with UCPath. Employees have also complained of problems regarding errors in direct deposits and missing personal information.

The UC has, in its defense, said it is working on a solution as soon as possible and is giving pay advances to some students. But that hasn’t solved pay issues for every student and doesn’t necessarily instill confidence that the system’s woes are over.

Even worse is the fact that the UC Office of the President is touting that 99 percent of employees have been paid correctly. Considering the University’s scale, not being able to pay even 1 percent of workers is appalling.

The incompetence needs to stop. Not paying employees and student workers isn’t just embarrassing; it’s disqualifying for any employer.

The UC still has to implement UCPath at five more campuses, and employees there don’t deserve to be lab rats.

Especially for a payroll system that’s nowhere close to being on the right path.

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