Current and former casual staff at Charles Sturt University (CSU) will be remediated $4.8 million in wages after an independent audit revealed years of underpayment dating back to 2015.
Staff were notified last Tuesday and Wednesday of the audit’s findings and will begin to receive payments from August onwards.
According to the University, more than 2500 casual academics and casual professional staff were affected between July 2015 and June 2022.
“This is a life-changing win for casual employees at CSU and elsewhere. It’s part of a string of recent underpayment victories by NTEU members nationwide,” said NTEU CSU Branch President Helen Masterman-Smith.
“Underpayment of staff is endemic in this heavily casualised sector because casual staff often fear recriminations if they make individual complaints. Government reform and strong enterprise bargaining outcomes are needed to stamp out these practices,” said Masterman-Smith.
In a recently published explainer on the remediation, the University said that the underpayments were “unintentional errors”, and resulted from misinterpreting the Enterprise Agreements.
CSU also claims that the findings of the review highlighted opportunities for “improvements in our systems and processes” that would mitigate the likelihood of future underpayments.
“This work was started before their [the NTEU’s] letter to the Vice-Chancellor. Charles Sturt voluntarily initiated this independent review itself and is happy to repay this money, hence our open communication about it,” Vice-Chancellor Renée Leon told Honi.
However, the NTEU expressed concerns about the other types of underpayment that were undetected by the audit.
“This whole debacle raises serious questions about the competence of CSU’s leadership and the necessity of recent major job cuts at CSU,” said Masterman-Smith.
The announcement comes within the context of rampant underpayment and increasing casualisation within the sector. A Senate report recently revealed that at least 21 of 40 Australian universities were implicated in the underpayment of their staff.
Last year, the University of Sydney admitted that it owed its staff $12.75 million after a similar independent review of payments from 2014 to 2020.
“Casualisation is out of control across the university sector. It is used as a cost-minimisation and risk mitigation strategy by university management,” said NTEU NSW Secretary Damien Cahill.
CSU recorded a net surplus of more than $143 million in 2021, which is a significant increase from its $14 million surplus in 2020.