Audit reveals wage theft at Charles Sturt University

August 31, 2022
The NTEU has recovered millions of dollars in stolen wages over the past few years.

Charles Sturt University (CSU), a multi-campus university in New South Wales, ACT and Victoria, will pay millions of dollars to current and former casual staff to remedy widespread underpayments revealed in an independent audit.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) called for the audit in 2020.

CSU’s vice-chancellor told staff on August 3 that the audit revealed 2526 staff had been underpaid, going back to July 2015.

According to the NTEU, CSU’s latest annual report includes a financial provision for close to $6.7 million in underpaid wages and superannuation.

Based on these figures, the NTEU estimated that affected current and former staff will receive an average of more than $2500 each person, with many receiving more than $7500.

NTEU CSU Branch President, Helen Masterman-Smith, said: “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.

“Underpayment of staff is endemic in this heavily casualised sector because casual staff often fear recriminations if they make individual complaints,” Masterman-Smith said. “Government reform and strong enterprise bargaining outcomes are needed to stamp out these practices.”

Despite the win, union members at CSU remain concerned that several types of under-payment may not have been detected by the audit.

The sheer amount of unpaid work being performed by casuals also raises a question over, and the necessity for, recent major job cuts on the campus.

“This whole debacle raises serious questions about the competence of CSU’s leadership,” Masterman-Smith said.

The NTEU said wage theft happens in many ways. “Some staff are under-classified. Some work unpaid hours. In some cases casual academics have been paid woefully low ‘piece rates’ to mark papers in less than half the time it really takes.”

NTEU wrote to Monash University management in July, accusing it of “failing to properly pay the wages owed to casual academics across multiple faculties, including the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Business and Economics”.

This was despite the university having admitted it had underpaid staff last year to the tune of $8.6 million.

The NTEU referred the University of Melbourne to the Fair Work Commission in March over its underpayment of casual academic staff.

The union has recovered millions of dollars in stolen wages for its members over the past few years.

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