Wage Theft in Australian Universities
Australian university staff have collectively lost almost $159 million in stolen wages, according to research conducted by the National Tertiary Education Union. This means that more than 97,000 employees in the sector have been underpaid by a combined $158.7 million. The research also revealed that there were 55 wage-theft incidents across 32 higher education institutions, with most of them occurring since 2014.
Which Universities Are Affected?
The report highlighted that Melbourne University had underpaid employees the most, with $45 million of lost wages to more than 30,000 workers. The University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney were the next highest institutions on the list, with underpayments of $18 million and $14.7 million respectively.
The Full Picture
However, it’s important to note that the report may not capture the full extent of underpayment in the sector, as there are still eight wage theft cases ongoing in courts. This means that the actual numbers could be even higher.
The Impact of Wage Theft
Wage theft has a devastating impact on the lives of university staff. It can make it difficult for them to make ends meet, pay bills, or even force them to take on additional work. These figures are alarming and highlight the need for change.
Cracking Down on Wage Theft
The federal government is taking steps to address wage theft with new workplace laws. Under these laws, employers who deliberately underpay staff could face up to 10 years in prison. The laws have already passed the lower house and will be debated in the Senate in February.
The Role of Casualization
The level of wage theft in the university sector is largely driven by the widespread casualization of staff. Unaccountable vice-chancellors on million-dollar salaries have been in charge of this crisis with almost no accountability. To address this issue, we need to end the practice of casualization using state and federal powers, including funding.
Supporting University Staff
Universities Australia, the peak body representing universities, stands in support of employees in the sector. University staff have a fundamental right to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and we fully support efforts to ensure this is always the case.