NTEU investigation forces Monash University to admit $8.6 million wage theft

National Tertiary Education Union

Monash University Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner had today admitted to a historic wage theft scandal at the University, disclosing $8.6 million in systemic underpayments to casual academics.

The disclosure is a direct result of an NTEU investigation on behalf of casual members.

The University has also confessed to the Fair Work Ombudsman, according to a letter from the University to the NTEU today.

The disclosure dates back more than six years and totals $8.6 million in underpayments.

NTEU Monash branch president Ben Eltham said “Monash University is the third institution to admit to systemic wage theft in as many weeks, following admissions from the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney.

“This proves wage theft is not just a scandal at Australian universities, it’s a result of their business model.

“The underlying cause of this is widespread casualisation of tertiary education which creates a breeding ground for staff to be ripped off and creates huge barriers to them reporting this exploitation.

“The practice at Monash University relates to the re-classification of lectures and tutorials as ‘workshops’, ‘practicals’ or ‘laboratories’ resulting in the systematic underpayment of sessional teachers. Staff are paid at the ‘Other Required Academic Activity’ hourly rate, rather than the appropriate rate for lectures or tutorials.

“As a result, many staff are not being paid for any preparation time for their teaching sessions. Some staff are being paid at one-third of the appropriate hourly rate. Some casual academics are coordinating whole units but not being paid for answering emails from students, or preparing lecture materials for classes.

“The practice is widespread and pervasive across the University. Senior managers including the Vice-Chancellor, Provost and Chief Operating Officer were all aware of it.

“Monash University is a world top-100 university. Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner’s recent Strategic Plan commits the University to ‘undertaking education and research of the highest international quality.’

“Stealing the wages of academics is not high-quality education. You can’t have the ‘highest international quality’ education when teachers are not paid to prepare for their classes. Students and parents would be horrified to learn that academics teaching classes in computer science, physics, social sciences, paramedicine, engineering and physiology at the University are not being properly paid for the teaching they are delivering.

“Given that the University has now admitted to the practice and has committed to paying back affected staff members, the NTEU and regulators will be watching closely to see that this is done thoroughly and transparently.

“Even today, Monash University’s Provost, Professor Sue Elliott AM, cancelled a scheduled meeting with affected casuals, apparently too afraid to meet with the very staff her own University had admitted underpaying.

“These revelations came to light because of the courage of Monash casual academics who came forward to tell the NTEU about their situation. On behalf of all members, the NTEU thanks them.”

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