New report reveals $107.8 million wage theft at Australian universities

The University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney and the University of Tasmania are the top three offenders according to the report.

A report released by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) on Monday has revealed wage theft of more than $107.8 million occurred across 22 Australian public universities since 2020.

The Union analysed 34 different cases of wage theft across the higher education sector in Australia. Per the report, the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney and University of Tasmania are the top three offenders, owing more than $45 million, $12.75 million and $11 million to the staff respectively. 

When broken down by state, the wage theft was most serious in Victoria, where universities are said to owe staff over $50 million. New South Wales’ universities under-paid staff almost $25 million, consisting of cases from University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, University of Newcastle, Charles Sturt University, and Academy of Information Technology. 

The Wage Theft report estimated that $83.4 million-worth of wage theft had occurred.  However, that amount was increased to $107.8 million on Tuesday after it was revealed that the University of Melbourne owes staff more than $45 million and that the University of Tasmania owes staff UTAS’s $11 million rather than $6,000. 

This amount will only increase as information about wage theft at other major universities like University of New South Wales, Deakin University, Charles Darwin University, among others, is revealed. 

In 2021, the University of Sydney admitted to a wage theft of $12.75 million and “began the process of compensating current and former staff identified as being affected in the initial phase of the review,” according to the University. The initial compensation process started in September 2021 to fix the “payment error” made by the institution and the final compensations will occur from late March to early April this year.

According to the USyd Branch of the NTEU, the University’s theft is a result of long-term actions like “paying tutorials at the demonstrator rate, paying ‘seminars’ that are really lectures at the tutorial rate, or paying tutorials at the ‘repeat tutorial rate”. Furthermore, while the University is bound to pay staff for their preparation hours (called “associate working time”), staff have not been paid for this time in several cases. 

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