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Friday, February 19, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 97

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Mix up leaves workers unpaid

By Audrey Warren
Daily Cougar Staff

Due to late filing of payroll paperwork, more than 25 teaching and research assistants in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics have not been paid since mid-January.

Although most of the affected TAs and RAs work for the computer science department, the filing problems affected the entire college.

Lawrence Miller, a computer science teaching assistant, was one of the students whose pay stopped as a result of the problem.

"We were paid for work up until mid-January," he said, after which point the lack of a paycheck was explained as resulting from a mix up with work assignments.

In the payroll process for University employees, work forms and employment papers are submitted to Financial Services, from which point they are passed on to Human Resources and then to payroll.

In this case, the paperwork was not processed in time, leaving the TAs, RAs, lecturers and one faculty member without pay.

Ernst Leiss, graduate adviser for the computer science department, said efforts are being made to resolve the problem quickly and that everyone should be paid by the end of this week.

"There are always problems, but they were more severe this time," he said. "Bureaucracies, being what they are, have unavoidable glitches that shouldn't be blown out of proportion."

To avoid similar problems in the future, Human Resources is purchasing a new payroll system for the University.

"We're going to automate all of the processing of payroll," said Robert Herrington, assistant vice chancellor/assistant vice president for Human Resources.

The new system will expedite the processing of paperwork by eliminating the many offices it must go through for processing. Though the project director for system installation came to UH on Monday, the system is not expected to be in place until next year.

Paperwork is also slowed when there are several new TAs and RAs hired, because everyone applying for work must supply numerous documents. New employees must provide all the necessary paperwork required for processing of their application, including tax information, certification or naturalization, immigration forms and proof of citizenship.

The appropriate department collects the paperwork and sends it to the dean's office for approval. Human Resources then receives it, and there is an approximate two-day turnaround for verification on documents. The process is often prolonged when paperwork is incomplete, Herrington said.

When everything goes through smoothly, new applicants are listed as employees, qualifying them for benefits. However, the NSM paperwork mix up prevented many TAs and RAs from being put on the employee list, and therefore they were temporarily ineligible for benefits like health insurance.

The Department of Physics and the Department of Geosciences also had small problems with payment processing, but reported that they were resolved early this week.
 

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