New BUDS pay scale no longer rewards extra hours

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When Dan Velazquez ’10 returned to campus this fall, he assumed his job as cart supervisor with Brown University Dining Services would be the same as always.

But he was told before the semester started that the system used to determine his wage had changed.

Starting next September, when his wages will fall under the new system, Velazquez said he will have a “noticeable pay cut” – to about $1.50 an hour less than he is making now.

“They didn’t give us a warning,” Velazquez said. “We just found out about it then.”

Under the old system, BUDS workers who put in eight hours a week received a 25-cent raise from the University minimum wage of $8.25 per hour at the end of each semester, plus a 5-cent raise for every 24 hours they worked beyond those eight hours each week.

This semester, under the new system, students who have worked with BUDS for one or two semesters make $8.25 per hour, with wages increasing by 50 cents for every two semesters they work with BUDS.

There is an additional end-of-semester bonus of up to $50 available to student workers who never miss a shift or put in a certain number of shifts substituting for another student.

The pay rate for supervisors has also increased.

Velazquez said he has been working with BUDS since he signed up during Orientation and doesn’t plan on stopping now.

This year, he qualifies for a grandfather clause, under which workers can choose to stay with their old hourly wage for a year.

But next year, he will be subject to the new system.

Under the new system, a student who works the minimum of eight hours each week would earn the same wage hike as one who worked 20 hours each week.

“Giving raises based on hours was not as relevant to the student population,” said Cindy Swain ’09, the BUDS general manager.

The old structure rewarded students who put in many hours, Swain said, but not some “great workers” who put in fewer hours per week.

“Rewarding in hours is rewarding quantity over quality,” Swain said. “Often they go hand in hand, but a lot of times they don’t.”

But Swain said that financial considerations also played a big role in the switch.

The old pay structure was “unsustainable,” Swain said, because “it’s hard to predict how much you will pay out in student wages every year because you don’t know how much a student will work.”

The goal for the new system, Swain added, was to “easily say, this is how much we will pay in student wages” at the beginning of the semester, not the end.

Swain, whose position involves acting as a liaison between student workers and the professional Brown Dining Services management, said she knew a year ago that the pay structure would have to be changed.

Over the summer, she said she worked closely with Dining Services administrators to design the new policy.

But the switch still caught some student workers off-guard.

“We came back and there were all these changes,” said Deborah Saint-Vil ’10, a cart supervisor.

“I wasn’t informed that they were discussing this.”

Saint-Vil’s hourly working wage will drop 30 cents under the new system.

But she said that because of the bonuses for subbing and the higher rate she will receive for the hours she acts as a supervisor, she chose to go with the new pay system and forgo her last year’s wage rate.

Swain said the reaction among student workers, according to her observations, has “ranged from apathetic to understanding.”

“No one has come to talk to me personally, and no one has quit because of the pay rate,” she added.

Though the new pay structure does not offer the same incentives to work more hours, BUDS workers interviewed said they will not log fewer hours than before.

“The fact that the old pay rate had that scaling based on how many hours you worked, it does disincentivize people from working as many hours as they might have,” Velazquez said.

But “for workers who were just working for the sake of getting more hours in, they’ll still want to work more hours,” he added.

Swain said the new system has not deterred students from taking shifts.

“If (workers) want more money,” she said, “they’ll work more anyway.”