Administrators postpone biweekly pay conversion

by Brian Bakst

University administrators will postpone their plans to convert all employees to a biweekly pay system, University President Nils Hasselmo said Tuesday.
“We are going to go ahead with the conversion,” Hasselmo said, “but we are not going to force everyone to convert until the fall of 1997.”
Hasselmo’s announcement represents a reprieve to University workers who fought proposals to convert the pay system this September. American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees stopped administrators from converting its employees in June. Because some union members are under a contract with a semimonthly pay system until next July, the University could not force AFSCME’s 4,500 employees to convert.
Phyllis Walker, AFSCME local 3800 president, said the union is not completely against the conversion. “The union is open to biweekly payroll,” she said. “We’ll just have to see what the University offers us.”
The biweekly payroll will incorporate a regular 10-day delay in employee pay. But union members say they cannot accept an additional 10-day holdup that will occur when the conversion takes place. According to the original conversion plan, employees on the semimonthly system would receive their last check Sept. 15 and would not be paid again until Oct. 9.
Administrators thought they had a solution for the delay when they offered an interest-free loan to employees who faced deferred payments. According to the original timetable, employees would repay their loans throughout an 18-month period. Loan payments would be taken out of employees’ paychecks in increments.
Hasselmo’s revised timetable would have allowed employees three years to repay their loans.
But Walker said the loan is not enough to make up for the 10-day delay. “We don’t want an interest-free loan for three years,” she said. “We don’t want the University to hold back 10 days of our money.”
In a letter distributed Tuesday to all University employees, Hasselmo wrote that administrators will gain support for the conversion from the Faculty Consultative Committee, Academic Staff Advisory Committee and Civil Service Committee by delaying it. The three governance groups have pledged to support the conversion only if it includes all University employees, Hasselmo added.
But the administration still needs to come to terms with University unions before their members will convert. Hasselmo said in an interview that administrators will adhere strictly to next fall’s target date. The administration has “to make decisions about changes, and then we have obligations to negotiate with certain groups,” Hasselmo said. “It doesn’t mean that one group or another has veto power.”
Administrators want to have one payroll system to save money. That money, Hasselmo said, can be put toward education.
Hasselmo added that state and federal regulations are making it difficult to retrieve money lost in overpaying employees. In a semimonthly system, pay sheets are submitted before the end of the pay period. Therefore, employees can be over- or underpaid if the time they work differs from the hours recorded on their pay sheets.
The revised conversion timetable states that now all new hires will be on a biweekly pay basis. Also, those who want to be paid biweekly can volunteer to change.
Hasselmo said, “I have sent in a form converting myself to biweekly.”