Illustration by Nikita Bowler

The history of UCPath — the UC’s new payroll system that standardizes payment to workers — brings a questionable future for UC Santa Cruz. 

State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced Senate Bill 698, which passed with a 38 to 0 vote on Oct. 3. SB 698 makes missed or delayed payment to UC workers a legal misdemeanor. It also indicates payments must be issued to UC employees bimonthly and allows them to sue if the university fails to issue payment on time.

The bill passed after financial discrepancies continuously arose from UCPath. Prior to SB 698, UC employees had no protection under the labor code to ensure regular and on-time payments. 

“It took almost a month, actually, after I applied for [Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans], before receiving them,” said Thomas Hintze, Northern Vice President for the Union of Academic Student Employees (UAW 2865). “In that time, I was unable to pay rent. I’ve applied for loans in the past […] They usually get processed in less than a week’s time. This was a direct result of UCPath.”

The UC proposed UCPath in 2011 with a predicted cost of $306 million and completion date of August 2014. But according to a state audit, UCPath is now priced at $942 million and is expecting completion by May 2020. 

The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) first implemented UCPath in January 2015. In 2018, UCPath went live at UCLA, UC Merced and UC Riverside. UC Berkeley followed suit in 2019.

“The chief financial officer asserted that the [UCOP] made the mistake of procuring a technological solution for the university’s payroll and human resources activities before it had standardized its business processes and developed a shared service center model for those activities,” according to the state audit report.

Seven hundred workers at UCLA missed or received incorrect payment in fall 2018, according to Hintze — some lost their healthcare because of the delayed payments. Three UCB students received eviction notices, and a UCSB employee had his car repossessed, Hintze said.

The UAW 2865 wrote a letter with a list of grievances to UCSB Chancellor Yang. The list detailed food insecurity, delayed rent payments, credit score reductions and adverse impacts on employees’ mental health as a result of UCPath payroll errors. 

The UC and the UAW 2865 came to a resolution on Feb. 25. Workers who experienced inaccurate or delayed payments for one month received compensation for their unpaid labor and an additional $150. Workers whose problems extended over one month received an additional $450. UCPath determined 400 students qualified, but the UAW 2865 argued several hundred additional workers who reported issues to the union should have been compensated as well.

UCPath currently serves more than 130,000 employees, and following the implementation at the remaining locations, that number will climb to 230,000, said Sarah McBride, UCOP Media & Communications Strategist, in an email. 

The UC is California’s third largest employer, and UCPath is the largest administrative project in UC history. Data for more than 200,000 employees across 20 locations will be transitioned into the UCPath data management system.

“Any time you implement such a large system there is likely to be some issues or errors,” said Sarah Latham, UCSC Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services. 

The Santa Cruz team is analyzing other campuses’ errors prior to the Jan. 2, 2020 initiation date, Latham said. They have tested UCPath in various stages — system integrative testing, end-to-end business testing and user testing — as preventative measures for prospective errors.

However, some panel coordinators for UCPath are distressed because the university hasn’t provided them adequate information about a plethora of changing protocols, said UAW 2865 Northern VP Thomas Hintze. 

“As a worker in the university, hearing the panel coordinators be concerned about the rollout is really, really worrying,” Hintze said.

For now, UCSC workers wait in anticipation for UCPath to be implemented in January 2020.