Paula Walton, Teresa Bloom and Margaret Buresh are among several Mt. Diablo school secretaries who were not paid for about a week of work in August.
When they complained to the district, they said they were told they would be paid for the hours they worked during the first half of August in June 2011 -- about 10 months later.
"I'm frustrated," said Walton, who works at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill. "It's an unfair situation."
Walton is especially concerned because the delayed payment will affect her pension when she retires in December. If she were paid for all her hours worked in August, she said, her pension would be $19 more a month, because it is based on wages earned before retirement.
Bloom and Buresh are not retiring this year, but they're also upset that the district asked them to return to work Aug. 9 -- a full week earlier than usual -- without telling them it intended to withhold their pay until June 2011.
"At this point, I'm just letting my union take over," said Bloom, who works at Glenbrook Middle School in Concord. "I'm tired of getting no feedback and no answers."
Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent for personnel, said the district thought it had notified employees of its intention to pay employees in that "pay class" for two weeks in August (even though they were required to work three weeks), then pay them for the extra week in June 2011 (even though they will stop working June 22). But Bloom said middle and high school secretaries were not notified of this plan and never agreed to it.
The district set the payments up this way to make payroll more even over the 10-and-a-half month period and ease reporting to the Public Employees Retirement System, Braun-Martin said.
"First of all, we are in the process of working with the leadership of CST (Clerical, Secretarial, Technical bargaining unit) to address the concerns raised regarding the August payroll schedule and respond to their grievance and find a way to work this out," she wrote in an e-mail.
Braun-Martin said uneven payments from month to month complicate payroll reporting.
"We divide the employees' work year into even months for pay and PERS reporting, so that their earnings are consistent from month to month and the employees' base pay is not continually fluctuating," she wrote. "If we simply pay people for the hours they work each month, they would have a different paycheck each month. We try to set up a system that gives them a consistent paycheck from month to month, because the PERS system is designed around having an equal number of days of month."
Public Employees Union Local 1, which represents the secretaries, has filed a grievance with the district and intends to file a complaint with the state Labor Commissioner, said Larry Edgington, general manager.
"The district's position is: 'We told you last year we adjusted the schedule,' " he said. "Our response is: 'You failed to pay people in the manner and method required by both our contract and state law.' "
Secretaries are normally paid at the end of the month for work done.
A spokeswoman for the state labor commissioner said government employees may be exempt from state labor laws that require timely payment of wages. However, they must be paid at least minimum wage, said Krisann Chasarik.
Buresh, a Northgate High School secretary in Walnut Creek, said the school board has cut 20 hours a month from secretaries because of budget cuts, causing some to look for second jobs over the summer.
" If I'd known I wasn't going to get paid until next June, I certainly wouldn't have come back (one week early)," she said.
Adding insult to injury, the district may propose cutting the hours of secretaries and other employees even more, to balance the budget. Unions are wondering why the district doesn't just use the $6.5 million it will get from the federal jobs bill to close budget gaps.
Braun-Martin said the district hasn't decided how that money will be spent.
"There isn't a plan yet," she said. "We're still waiting for the guidelines and regulations, so we know what we can do."