Thales Australia, an arms manufacturing company chaired by University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, has been found by the Fair Work Ombudsman to have underpaid workers by $7.44 million during the period 2011-2018.
Thales self-disclosed the underpayment last year, which occurred after the company took insufficient steps to ensure that the salary contracts it entered into were compliant with enterprise agreements and award rates.
Hutchinson has been the Chair of Thales Australia since 2015. In 2017, the University of Sydney signed a memorandum of understanding with the company, promising to collaborate closely in the areas of defence and security research.
Thales has been one of the primary targets of the student-led Books not Bombs campaign, which has sought to expose the ties between Australian universities and the arms industry.
A 2018 Freedom of Information request revealed that USyd holds significant investments in numerous arms companies amounting to over $4 million.
Students’ Representative Council Education Officer James Newbold spoke to Honi about Hutchinson’s involvement.
“As a chair of Thales, there is no way Belinda Hutchinson wasn’t aware of wage theft occurring […]. Those responsible for wage theft are given a slap on the wrist while working class people responsible for petty theft can end up in and out of prison, secure housing and employment, for their entire lives,” Newbold said.
“Our tertiary education should be run for the public good, yet Hutchinson seemingly has no qualms with weapons manufacturing and wage theft.”
Hutchinson has held the position of Chancellor since 2013, and continues to hold a number of positions in the private sector, including a non-executive position on the Qantas board. Qantas was embroiled in its own underpayment scandal earlier this year.
Thales frequently engages with the federal government in the supply of defence goods
The University of Sydney declined to comment on the matter.