The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) understands that RMIT’s long-running wage theft dispute has prompted the Fair Work Ombudsman to commence an investigation into the (alleged) underpayment of casual academic staff at the university.
NTEU announced today that it has been in contact with the Wage Inspectorate Victoria to request that the regulator investigate whether RMIT’s conduct amounts to criminal wage theft under Victoria’s new wage theft legislation.
NTEU also alleged significant and systemic wage theft of over $17 million, according to its calculations, affecting hundreds of casual academic staff and dating back several years.
In June, a formal dispute notice was lodged under the RMIT enterprise agreement about the non-payment of the appropriate marking rates to casual academics. Since then, a significant volume of evidence has been shared by the NTEU with RMIT in the hope that it would audit and redress all underpayments. Despite these efforts, RMIT has yet to commit to paying back stolen wages.
“Unfortunately this case at RMIT is not an isolated incident,” NTEU Victorian Assistant Secretary Sarah Roberts said. “We’ve seen similar instances now at the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University here in Victoria, as well as a recent case involving millions of dollars and hundreds of casual staff at the University of Sydney.”
“Wage theft in our universities is not a one-off scandal, but an ingrained crisis. And its most powerful ingredient is the insecure work inflicted on university workers through short-term contracts and casual employment,” Ms Roberts said.
Only one in three people employed in Australian universities enjoys secure, ongoing work. This creates a fertile environment for exploitation and has deep human consequences.
“We have seen enough evidence of wage theft to know that every university needs a thorough audit of its practices. There must be greater transparency and much stiffer penalties.”
“All universities should be compelled to reveal their use of insecure employment.”
“Wage theft cannot and should not be part of a business model and must end now.”