Under threat of legal action by the University of Melbourne management, staff, students and community representatives joined casual and sessional teaching staff today from the University’s Faculty of Arts. The protest was held in front of the University-owned home of Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell, Cumnock House in The Avenue precinct of Parkville.
“We demand that the university settle these wage theft claims affecting more than 615 casual teaching staff at the Faculty of Arts,” said Geraldine Fela, NTEU Branch Committee member and delegate. “We estimate the University of Melbourne owes more than $6 million to some of its most precarious workers,” Ms Fela went on to say.
The Cumnock House property was purchased for $7.1 million to house Professor Maskell after taking up the VC post in 2018. “Cumnock House is a symbol of the inequity facing employees at the country’s wealthiest university,” said David Gonzalez, a professional staff member at the Fine Arts and Music Faculty. “Executive and senior management enjoy some of the highest salaries and benefits while staff face losing their livelihoods, financial uncertainty and personal stress.”
In a statement of support sent to the rally’s participants, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens spokesperson for Education, said: “Across the country, there are systemic problems with underpayment of casual staff at our universities. It’s great to see uni workers protesting against wage theft and demanding fair pay and conditions. Enough is enough.”
The event went ahead despite the University’s attempt to silence the protest on Thursday afternoon, with a top HR official labeling the event as “coercion” of the VC by the event’s organisers. The casuals, staff and community members attending the event categorically rejected this claim.
Casual staff intend to take action against the University in the Federal Court by lodging a claim for underpayment for all affected casual staff.
This COVID-safe event followed all Victorian Government guidelines on outdoor gatherings and included strict registration requirements to ensure the safety of participants and contact tracing if required.