By Theresa Harrington
I reported in today’s newspaper that several secretaries in the Mt. Diablo school district were upset that they were underpaid in August by about one week. They said the district wanted to withhold pay for about one out of three weeks worked until June 2011 — or about 10 months after they did the work.
Valley View Middle School secretary Paula Walton was particularly concerned about this because the delayed payment will adversely affect her pension, she said.
Unfortunately, district representatives were unable to get back to me in time for my print deadline with their side of the story.
However, I received an e-mail last night and spoke today to Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, regarding the dispute.
Braun-Martin said the district thought it had notified employees of its intention to pay employees in that “pay class” for two weeks in August (even though they were required to work three weeks), then pay them for the extra week in June 2011 (even though they will stop working June 22).
The district set the payments up this way to make payroll more even over the 10-and-a-half month period, she said.
“First of all, we are in the process of working with the leadership of CST (Clerical, Secretarial, Technical bargaining unit) to address the concerns raised regarding the August payroll schedule and respond to their grievance and find a way to work this out,” she wrote in her e-mail. “We have received an e-mail from Ms. Walton and we will provide Ms. Walton with information regarding her specific situation.”
Braun-Martin said uneven payments from month to month complicate reporting to PERS (the Public Employees Retirement System).
“We divide the employees’ work year into even months for pay and PERS reporting, so that their earnings are consistent from month to month and the employees’ base pay is not continually fluctuating,” she wrote. “If we simply pay people for the hours they work each month, they would have a different paycheck each month. We try to set up a system that gives them a consistent paycheck from month to month, because the PERS system is designed around having an equal number of days of month.”
The problem is: some secretaries say they were not told about this plan and they never agreed to it.
“They’ll pay us, but it’s not going to be with interest,” said Margaret Buresh, a Northgate High secretary in Walnut Creek. “And they already got the work out of us. That’s outrageous. If I’d known I wasn’t going to get paid til next June, I certainly wouldn’t have come back (one week early).”
Adding insult to injury, the district may propose cutting the hours of secretaries and other employees even more, to balance the budget. Unions are wondering why the district doesn’t just use the $6.5 million it will get from the federal jobs bill to close budget gaps.
Braun-Martin said the district hasn’t decided how that money will be spent.
“There isn’t a plan yet,” she said. “We’re still waiting for the guidelines and regulations, so we know what we can do.”
Would you agree to work a week in August if you knew you wouldn’t get paid for that week until June 2011, with no interest for the 10-month delay?