The Guardian • Issue #2094

‘Number One wage thief ’ fined $75,000

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2094
Empty wallet.

Photo: Marco Verch foto.wuestenigel.com – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0 Deed)

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has called for urgent reform after Melbourne University copped a $75,000 fine over threatening to punish two casual academic staff for work outside contracted hours.

A supervisor told the staff “if you claim outside your contracted hours don’t expect work next year” in August 2020.

When one worker tried to claim five additional hours the university refused to further engage her.

The supervisor told another staff member the casual academic was a “self-entitled Y-genner” on a “crusade behind the scenes”.

In his ruling, Federal Court judge Craig Dowling noted the 89 per cent increase in casual and fixed-term employees in higher education between 2010 and 2021.

Two-thirds of university staff are employed insecurely.

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said the case highlighted the need for major changes to all Australian universities.

“This is yet another damning example of what the explosion in insecure work means for staff on the ground,” she said.

“Rampant casualisation has fuelled an insidious culture of exploitation, which leads to workers’ livelihoods being threatened for simply asking to be paid properly.

“A $75,000 fine is welcome, but shocking incidents like this will keep happening unless there’s major changes to universities’ broken governance model.

“Melbourne University is the higher education sector’s number one wage thief with $45 million in underpayments in recent years.

“With more than $170 million stolen from university workers across Australia, there is an insurmountable case for sweeping reforms at federal and state levels.

“We need to fix the insecure crisis and make universities more accountable so they are no longer run like profit-hungry corporate giants operating in a Wild West environment.”

National Tertiary Education Union

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