Merit pay for unrepresented UC employees

Merit pay is a method used by the University of California that limits the amount awarded for employee salary increases. Using the merit pay system alone to award increases fails to create equity and adequate compensation for hard-working employees. Here’s why.

Under the current merit pay system all the power is in management’s hands. UC’s Office of the President decides if, and when, non-represented employees will get a raise. It’s not always up to your supervisor.

UC claims merit pay rewards performance based on an employee’s evaluation. But even if there’s money available, not everyone gets a raise, no matter how well they perform.

Some departments have more money, or they have other priorities. Departments with bigger budgets may award more salary increases than “poorer” departments. People doing similar or identical work at UC can end up compensated very differently.

Merit pay lacks objective, measurable standards. It does not necessarily reflect an employee’s work performance since there are no standards on performance reviews, which are used to determine who gets a merit increase and how much it should be. Unrepresented employees have no way to hold the UC accountable if they get no raise at all.

Merit pay unfairly punishes some employees by not providing any raise.  Even with a “satisfactory” or “meets expectations” evaluation, some UC workers get a reduction in buying power as their stagnant wages fall behind the cost-of-living, in addition to shouldering increasing costs for health care, parking and pension.

Lack of transparency and favoritism causes divisions. UC workers often do not know which colleagues received a raise, how much it was, and what the deciding factors were.  Management can decide to reward those who curry favor rather than those do great work.

The use of merit pay exclusively can discourage team effort and create low morale by encouraging competition for a limited pool of money. The same pool may go to both employees and the managers who make salary decisions.

The only way to get regular raises is to have a seat at the bargaining table. UPTE-CWA represents over 13,000 UC workers across the state. Together, we negotiate over wages, working conditions and job protections. With these numbers comes power at the bargaining table.

Here are a few examples of what UPTE’s represented members have achieved at the bargaining table:

  • Regular salary increases throughout the life of the contract (which increases your pension in retirement)
  • A transparent process for performance evaluations and awarding salary increases
  • Recourse through the grievance process if the employer does not abide by the contract
  • Negotiating cost of benefits and pension

Here’s what you can do to have a seat at the table:

UNIONIZE WITH UPTE– Gain a voice in determining your own future. The UC must legally bargain with employees’ chosen representative

  • CALL an UPTE rep and ask to set up a Wage Workshop and/or a Know Your Rights Workshop
  • SIGN an UPTE authorization card or petition to show your support for becoming a union member with bargaining rights
  • SPEAK with your colleagues about unionizing through UPTE
  • Contact UPTE