The average work study student can earn $8,000 over the course of four years. This is roughly the equivalent of teaching two, semester-length courses for an adjunct professor.
Yet one Castleton work-study student recently received that amount in a paper check for a single pay period.
That’s just two weeks of work.
When asked who’s had issues with UltiPro, the new pay system Vermont State Colleges have recently adapted, all 17 people present at the Castleton faculty and staff union meeting last Thursday were quick to raise their hands.
This $8,000 check was just one instance of the hundreds of errors actively occurring since the switch, they said.
The issue of pay has been more of an ongoing battle for staff, who are six paychecks into the switch, than faculty, who are two weeks into it.
Some staff members say they haven’t received pay for the entire six weeks the system has been in use. A single mother without compensation worried how she will pay her bills, while another staff member said she got an extra $2,000 inexplicably deposited into her account.
And faculty no longer at the college have testified to still receiving deposits into their accounts. In other cases, automatic deductions from accounts have been overdrawn double, and many cannot view their paystubs and are simply praying they’re correct.
This inaccurate pay additionally affects what is taken out of each individuals’ accounts for health care, retirement and taxes, union members said.
Chair of the Castleton staff union, Billie Langlois, says around 70 percent of those under her unit have come to her with issues.
“Confidence is not high,” she said shaking her head. “Everyone has been looking on Wednesdays in our union units and other units like, ‘Okay, what are we going to get paid this time?’”
Vermont State College Human Resources officials and leaders are aware of the issues and working to fix them. VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding has been publicly addressing these concerns.
“The problem is with the new system. There is plenty of money to pay people,” Spaulding commented in a recent interview with WCAX.
Nancy Shaw, director of Human Resources of the Vermont State College system, says the answer to gaining back employee trust is open and honest communication. She appreciates the patience of employees across campuses who understand the software is a new learning process for everyone.
The administration of payroll and benefits was centralized over the summer to the chancellor’s office in Montpelier to comply with federal regulations and save money. However, the absence of a designated payroll person on campus is taking a heavy toll on all Castleton employees.
The new method of dealing with payroll issues is by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with no particular individual to whom those messages go.
Flo Keyes, head of full-time faculty union, has not personally had pay issues, but has been serving as the conduit for those who have.
“I fail to see how a system that’s so incompetent is saving us money. I’d rather pay competent people on every campus,” Keyes said. “It’s really hard to deal with a faceless email as the only solution to problems that affect your ability to pay your bills.”
Keyes and Langlois both pointed out concern for the legal aspects that need to be honored – like union contracts that guarantee wages and benefits, and a law in the state of Vermont that requires employees to be paid within two weeks of having done the work.
Castleton’s director of Human Resources, Janet Hazelton, has been the one to field the questions of concerned employees as best she can; however, she has no control over the problem either.
Hazelton said she prefers to be included in emails when employees contact the VSC payroll address, so she can be aware of issues as they appear. She also has accompanied several employees on calls with payroll specialists, who are very cooperative, she said.
Although those having to manually enter their work time have encountered the most difficulties, work-study student Jay Marcy, who went through the summer transition to UltiPro, has had no issues with the software.
“Honestly, reading that people aren’t getting paid made me check my bank account to make sure I got my last paycheck. It’s there, whew,” he said. “Still, I know students with multiple jobs on campus have had a more difficult time navigating the system.”
The answer is unclear why such errors are occurring. Though many issues are system errors, human errors may also come into play with those manually entering having a tough time navigating UltiPro’s interface, Shaw said.
But Shaw said she firmly believes UltiPro is the right choice and the bugs will get resolved. She says the switch makes sense to enable colleges to do what they do best: educate students.
Faculty and staff are particularly concerned with what they say is processing negligence and the lack of urgency from those in Montpelier, not fully realizing the toll this has on individuals.
Pam Alexander, administrative assistant at Castleton, points out how the ownership is now on the employee to keep track of the accuracy of their own pay.
“This whole process has created a lot of anxiety for employees,” she said. “It’s kept us from being productive within our assignments because we’ve had to put so much time and energy into scrutinizing and micromanaging our compensation.”