NTEU lodges Federal Court action over wage theft and sham contracting

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has lodged Federal Court proceedings against JMC Academy, alleging that its employment practices for its lecturers are an illegal sham.

JMC Academy is a private higher education provider offering courses in the creative, dramatic and visual arts at campuses in Victoria, NSW and QLD.

“JMC engages its lecturers in a way that avoids minimum employment conditions,” said NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes. “It is flat out wage theft of the most egregious kind. JMC made a business practice of underpaying JMC staff, and undermined their retirement income by failing to pay superannuation.”

“NTEU alleges that in reality, JMC staff are employees by any reasonable definition, and are being substantially underpaid against the applicable Award.”

NTEU has named four members in the test case who are former JMC lecturers. “These members have bravely decided to stand up to JMC’s exploitative practices with the aim that it will mean a fairer deal for their colleagues” Dr Barnes said.

The Union alleges that JMC’s conduct constitutes ‘serious contraventions’ of the Fair Work Act through JMC’s failure to comply with the Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2020. Namely that it was done knowingly and that the contraventions were part of a systematic pattern of conduct affecting one or more people.

Court ordered penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ are up to $133,200 per contravention for an individual and $666,000 per contravention for companies.

“NTEU believes these employees are entitled to back-pay for the roughly half of the Award rate that they have not been paid, their superannuation and a declaration from the Court that JMC is breaching the sham contracting provisions of the Fair Work Act by engaging their lecturers as contractors when they are in fact employees,” said Dr Barnes.

“Our aim is that JMC Academy is forced to end its exploitative practices and employ its staff properly.”

JMC is due to provide its response to the claim by early December 2020.

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