The Guardian • Issue #2102

Deakin University admits wage theft after two years of denial

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2102
Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria.

Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria. Photo: Bob T – Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Deakin University has finally admitted to engaging in multimillion dollar wage theft after denying underpaying staff for two years.

In an email to all staff, Deakin management revealed the underpayments, which the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) estimates could exceed $10 million.

Some individuals were underpaid more than $45,000.

The NTEU lodged a dispute with Deakin management in June 2022, alleging systemic underpayments of sessional staff for marking. The NTEU referred the dispute to the Fair Work Commission in November 2022.

Deakin has reported itself to the Fair Work Ombudsman over underpayments in just two of its schools, despite the NTEU presenting evidence of widespread wage theft across the organisation.

The NTEU will push for broader repayments and may be forced to initiate Federal Court action if management doesn’t make a full admission.

NTEU Victorian Division Secretary Sarah Roberts said:

“Deakin management’s refusal to admit a clear-cut case of wage theft for two whole years is a disgrace.

“As late as February this year, management was still insisting the piece rate used to fleece workers didn’t exist – despite staff presenting rock solid evidence.

“This humiliating admission is a huge win for brave NTEU members at Deakin who have been on a two-year journey to expose this shocking conduct.

“Unfortunately, Deakin has only ‘fessed up to stealing wages in two schools, but we won’t rest until this entire systematic scandal is fully exposed and every cent owed repaid.”

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said:

“It’s absolutely shameful that just one day after the University of Queensland admitted to $8 million in wage theft, Deakin has been added to the ever-growing list of university wage thieves.

“The spiralling wage theft epidemic needs urgent action from state and federal governments.

“Unaccountable vice-chancellors and their senior executives are making a mockery of education ministers who clearly said universities should be exemplary employers.

“We need to end the insecure work crisis and implement a proper governance system if we’re serious about having the universities Australia deserves.”

National Tertiary Education Union

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