Scores of instructors at City College were jolted last week when a payroll glitch left them with no August paycheck heading into the holiday weekend.
“Our union office has been thrown into turmoil this afternoon responding to hundreds of City College faculty who did not receive pay checks,” reads a brusque letter to CCSF Chancellor Mark Rocha, penned Friday by Jennifer Worley, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121. “Understandably, they are very upset and in a panic. Already balancing tight budgets, many of our faculty will be direly affected by this ‘mishap.’”
The problem is being pinned on CCSF’s Faculty Load and Compensation (FLAC) system. The teachers’ union bemoans this payroll program, saying it has been problematic since its recent implementation — but it has never before failed en masse as it did for the month of August.
The unpaid and underpaid instructors are either part-timers or full-timers teaching additional classes over a normal load.
CCSF officials on Friday hurriedly cut 156 $1,000 paper checks for the instructors who hadn’t been paid at all, to hold them over while the situation is sorted out. These were available on Saturday for staffers who were in town to pick them up.
“Once we learned that many part-time faculty members were not paid today, at Chancellor Rocha’s direction, we mobilized to get checks issued right away,” reads an e-mail sent Aug. 31 to affected staffers by Dianna Gonzales, the school’s vice chancellor of human resources. “The quickest way to accomplish this was to issue physical checks for a set amount vs. generating payroll/direct deposit checks based on each faculty member’s actual assignment.”
In addition to the 156 staffers who weren’t paid at all, scores were underpaid. For these instructors “whose checks were incorrect,” Gonzales wrote, “we will work on that, first thing next week.”
“On behalf of Chancellor Rocha and all the Vice Chancellors, we sincerely apologize for the disruption to your holiday weekend. Please document any expenses or charges incurred as a result of not receiving your paycheck and we will reimburse you.”
The teachers’ union, while appreciative of the quick action to get the instructors a bit of money, claimed this is just the latest and worst problem stemming from a misbegotten payroll program.
“There has been a longstanding problem with the FLAC system. We have had hundreds of payroll grievances because of the FLAC system. We’ve been telling the district for years that it is broken,” says Wynd Kaufmyn, a CCSF engineering professor and the vice president of the AFT Local 2121.
The FLAC system, Kaufmyn says, is most susceptible to problems in August, the beginning of the school year, when classes are added, cut, or moved around. These “assignments” aren’t properly fed into the system and, many times, instructors have found themselves underpaid. Or even overpaid. But mostly underpaid.
“At one of the first meetings the AFT had with Chancellor Rocha over a year ago, we told him the system is broken and he promised to fix it,” Kaufmyn said. “It is still not fixed.”
Long-term, Kaufmyn is hoping that this “unprecedented” error will hasten FLAC’s demise. Short-term, she says the problem has largely been mitigated. But not without bumps along the way: “You know, teachers are already really struggling to make ends meet in this city. I got a call from one who’s in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and she was really depending on this check.”
The 35-year CCSF instructor said the college has committed to the union that it will make whole its underpaid instructors by tomorrow. CCSF spokeswoman Connie Chan concurred, stating that the difference between $1,000 and what every instructor is actually owed will be rectified “no later than September 5.”
Anthony Ryan, a part-time instructor in screen printing, was one of the 156 faculty members who found himself unpaid for the month of August. He showed up on Saturday at 33 Gough Street and picked up his $1,000 check: “It was as uncrowded as you’d think it’d be on a Saturday morning of a holiday weekend. They had a handwritten sign saying ‘checks this way.’” (Chan noted that only 12 instructors opted to pick up their checks in person; the rest were inclined to let direct deposit get it to them this week).
Ryan had never before heard of the FLAC system, and was forgiving: “I understand that mistakes do happen.” But the payment glitch wasn’t his only disappointment and problem. Or the biggest one.
“At the same time, I learned I was going from [teaching] six units to three, so I lost my health insurance,” he said. “There’s just a lot of uncertainty being part-time faculty. It just feels like part of the eternal hazing we go through.”