Berkeley Unified School District classified employees were looking forward to collecting their March pay checks Friday because of 6 percent raises approved by the school board last week, retroactive to July 1 of last year.
But they got even more than they bargained for.
Because of computer difficulties and clerical errors, members of Public Employees Union Local One – clerks, secretaries, accountants and maintenance personnel, among others – received double the amount they should have received for the retroactive payments.
The employees were supposed to receive their retroactive raises for the last eight months in one lump sum on Friday’s pay check, but they got the sum times two. Since Berkeley teachers received a retroactive raise last spring after successful contract negotiations, the district was eager to get raises to their classified employees, said BUSD Public Information Officer Karen Sarlo. As a result, Sarlo said, the process was “kind of rushed.”
Sarlo said district clerical staff didn’t catch the error until late Thursday, at which point district administrators decided that it would be unfair to withhold the checks for one week in order to correct the error. Instead, they opted to pay the employees as scheduled and then withhold an amount equal to Friday’s unexpected bonus from a future paycheck. Sarlo said the district will withhold the amount from classified employees’ May pay checks, giving the district a month to work through glitches in its new payroll computer system and calculate just how much it overpaid each employee.