The first admitted example of what NTEU believes to be widespread underpayment in the tertiary education sector has been revealed after the Union intervened to obtain time and wages records for affected members.
In yet another example of wage theft, a private provider of higher education, Academy of Information Technology (AIT) has admitted to its staff that they “may” have been paying casual educators below the Award rate. AIT has campuses in Sydney and Melbourne and is a part of RedHill Education Limited.
In a response eerily similar to that used by George Calombaris, AIT says that the “inadvertent” underpayment is a result of the terms of the Award being “unintentionally misinterpreted or misapplied”. They have stated that they will now back-pay the “small number” of affected staff.
“For how long are we expected to accept the ‘Whoops, I accidentally stole your wages’ response from employers when Unions investigate underpayment?” NTEU National Assistant Secretary Gabe Gooding said.
NTEU estimates that there are around 40 current casual employees who are affected by underpayment, which in some cases has employees receiving less than 50% of the Award rate for lectures. Initial investigations by NTEU show many workers being underpaid between $10,000 and $60,000 each plus superannuation, with one estimated to be owed up to $185,000 over 5 years. The estimate is based on inspection of wages records supplied to the Union. There will also be back-pay owed to an unknown number of previous employees.
“This shows that wage theft can happen to anyone. People working in tertiary education should not think they are immune to having their wages stolen,” Gooding said.
NTEU believes that there is widespread underpayment in the tertiary education sector which is often hidden by the extensive use of casual labour and dubious contracting arrangements.
“Given that AIT appears to have been having difficulty interpreting the Award up until now, NTEU will be closely checking the suggested back-pay owed to Union members. We wouldn’t want another inadvertent error to result in under-payment,” Gooding said.