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Issue #1930      August 31, 2020

NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union) preparing wage theft class actions

Almost one quarter of Australian universities are now engulfed in the sector’s wage theft scandal with the NTEU threatening a wave of class actions in response.

The ABC has today revealed underpayment issues at the University of Queensland (UQ), University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Murdoch University, RMIT and Monash University.

Recently, it was revealed the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales (UNSW) and Macquarie University were repaying staff who were underpaid, while the University of Western Australia (UWA) was auditing its pay rates.

The NTEU will today take RMIT to the Fair Work Commission over pay-rates that give tutors only ten minutes to mark a paper.

At other universities, whistle-blowers have revealed they were told to skim read assessments or not grade them at all.

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said the Union had already recovered millions in lost wages for members and was now preparing fresh legal campaigns.

“NTEU is gathering information to launch a wave of class actions. We do not believe wage theft is confined to the ten universities that have admitted to it,” Dr Barnes said.

“We have already recovered millions in underpayment with millions more to come. If a quarter of the sector now admits to underpayment you can be sure the problem goes a lot further.

“The root cause of wage theft is insecure casual and contract employment. This creates a completely lopsided power dynamic. Managers feel confident to squeeze employees. And employees are intimidated – they think if they enforce their rights it’ll limit their career prospects. Insecure employment creates wage theft.

“There is a Senate Inquiry into wage theft and we would like to see the vice chancellors appear and explain their employment practices.

“But more importantly we are pushing to flip the proportion of insecure employment in universities on its head. Currently up to seven in ten University employees are insecurely employed. This is scandalously high. Insecure employment should be fleeting and rare. Unfortunately the opposite is currently true.”

Next article – Morrison Government undermines workers’ rights to bargain

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