By Amethyst Martinez
After a plethora of problems arose with salary payments due to the summer timesheet change, Rider’s chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents over 50 members of Rider staff, filed a grievance document against the university near the beginning of the school year.
From July 15 to Aug. 5, members of the union, who say they are some of the university’s lowest-paid employees, went without a paycheck after Rider transferred from an in-house timesheet program to outsourcing its payroll through the private company ADP (Automatic Data Processing) at the beginning of August.
Kristine Brown, associate vice president of university marketing and communications said in an email to The Rider News, “Members of the Administration and AFSCME leadership have been in discussions throughout the summer on the impact of the payroll change. The grievance related to this change was originally filed on September 2, 2022.”
Lynn Rugg, co-president of Rider’s AFSCME chapter, who works as a sports information administrative associate, said that the missing paycheck was due to the change from a semimonthly pay period to a biweekly period. This, in turn, will make their pay schedule go from 24 semimonthly paychecks a year (at the middle and end of each month) to 26 biweekly paychecks, every other Friday. Since the timesheet change occurred in the middle of the year for the 2022 pay period, members were paid 13 semimonthly payments plus 11 biweekly, which led to a pay discrepancy for the year.
According to a spreadsheet obtained by The Rider News that the union created as a visualization of missing funds, the previous annual starting salary for an administrative specialist for 2021 was $41,516.16 with a semimonthly paycheck amounting to $1,729.84 per check. With the new biweekly system, each paycheck after July 2022 only amounts to $1,596.77 — $133.07 less than the amount that was received with the semimonthly system. With this change, the document states that the annual salary for the same position will come out to an amount that is $1,463.72 short from the previous year. The 2023 salary will be the same as 2021, meaning that the pay discrepancy will not be accounted for in the next calendar year.
“It’s not like they eliminated the semimonthly payroll dates,” said Rugg. “They still have it for managers and faculty, but they decided to take us out of it because we’re hourly employees. … It’s a well established past practice, and then they switched us to every other week. There’s been [a] negative impact on the employees. From not getting paid the right hourly rate, to pension money not going in in a timely manner, accrual sick time and stuff is not being listed on pay stubs properly.”
Rider’s chapter of AFSCME represents 55 members on campus who are labeled as “support staff.” According to Rugg and Alison Neu, academic associate for the department of English and Languages, Literature and member of AFSCME. This includes workers in athletics, student affairs, academics, admissions, the library and more. Neu said that members faced serious financial difficulties during the pay lag this past summer. “Several of us live paycheck to paycheck, and [to go] without pay for three weeks from July 15 to Aug. 5, right at mortgage time … was a hardship for several members,” Neu said. The union also claimed that its members are among some of the lowest-paid Rider employees.
Victoria McLendon, co-president of Rider’s chapter of AFSCME and a student affairs administrative assistant said, “I don’t think any of us make $50,000 a year yet after being here all these years.” McLendon has had a permanent position at Rider for over two decades.
Another document obtained by The Rider News showed that a semimonthly pay period was a part of the union’s collective bargaining agreement, which was just renewed for a one year extension in August.
Rider’s Vice President of Finance, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer James Hartman said, “Now they’re paid on that week lag for those two weeks that they work. So they get paid the hours they work, they get paid for their overtime, everything gets paid, currently, just on a one-week lag.”
Both Hartman and Rugg confirmed that they met in September for a meeting, along with McLendon.
“It’s the one-week lag that’s causing them to say [they had] gotten paid less this year, and this is what the basis of the grievance is,” said Hartman. “I tried to explain, you’re still making the same amount of money … just on a one-week lag.”
Rider’s chapter of AFSCME recently received a response from management for their amended grievance relating to the terms of their labor contract being violated, and are due to meet on Nov. 1.
Rider has been extensively cutting costs in all sectors of the university. One of the reasons for implementing ADP for all Rider employees was in an attempt to “reduce costs,” according to Brown.
Rugg, however, said, “We know the university is struggling financially, and believe us, we’ve done our part.” Neu said that many of the members had a two month unpaid furlough in 2020 due to the pandemic. They also said that university management was invited to one of Rider’s AFSCME meetings, but declined.
“We’re answering for 50 other people,” said McLendon. “We go before H[uman] R[esources] management … they should be hearing this from everybody. They need to hear everyone else speak, and we ask[ed] them to go attend a general meeting, rather than be the retriever of concern, and [were] denied.” During these meetings, many union members have aired their grievances, according to McLendon.
Hartman said that if employees were having financial troubles due to the timesheet change, the university was ready to help, one example being a payment advance, which Rugg confirmed.
The union hopes to resolve these issues by receiving their missing pay by the end of the calendar year instead of when they leave the university.
“You don’t screw around with people’s money,” said Rugg.
Originally printed in the 10/26/22 issue.