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Past-due payments

New York Teacher

One of an employer’s most basic obligations is to pay its employees in a timely fashion. Yet over and over again, the city Department of Education falls short in this regard. Between staffing issues, an antiquated payroll system and an apparent lack of will to adapt and resolve problems quickly, thousands of UFT members wait months for wage adjustments or other payments.

Last summer, many paraprofessionals who worked in the Summer Rising program waited weeks to be paid due to a payroll processing problem.

The union fought hard this fall to identify long-term substitute teachers who qualify to switch to the Q-bank with higher pay and health benefits. The DOE agreed in December to move the first batch of about 80 per diem educators to the Q-bank. But it took school officials until mid-March to secure and test a new payroll code. These substitute teachers likely won’t see the higher pay until late April. In addition to the financial hardship, they miss out on premium-free health benefits as they wait.

The DOE’s bureaucratic inefficiencies are hurting other members who are waiting for additional pay that the UFT negotiated for them. The 2023 contract added an optional ninth session for occupational and physical therapists that was supposed to be operationalized in September, but it still has not happened due to the lack of a new payroll code. Last fall, the UFT secured a $5,000 bonus for teachers who agree to shift to teach in their secondary license of English as a new language or bilingual education to serve the many new immigrant students. The bonus was supposed to be divided up and included with each paycheck, but the DOE now says it will pay the bonus as a lump sum in July.

In the year 2024, it strains credulity when the DOE claims payroll codes are holding up millions of dollars in UFT members’ earnings. It is time for the DOE to stop making excuses for its antiquated technology and respect the work of its employees. Hard-working educators should not have to pay the price for the DOE’s bureaucratic failures.