Monash launches extraordinary bid to dodge wage theft liability

November 11, 2022

Monash University has launched an extraordinary bid to avoid repaying millions of dollars in wages allegedly owed to sessional and casual staff.

The University has applied to the Fair Work Commission to retrospectively change its enterprise agreement covering Monash staff.

If approved, this would mean Monash would no longer be required to pay sessional teaching staff for student consultation or back pay. The union alleges these are both owed.

Monash's application was made less than four weeks after the NTEU launched wage theft proceedings in the Federal Court.

The Union alleges the University systemically underpaid sessional teaching staff by requiring them to deliver scheduled student consultation as unpaid ‘associated work’ tied to the rate they receive for delivering tutorials.

The NTEU estimates if Monash is successful, it would result in millions of dollars in backpay owed across multiple university faculties and schools not being recovered.

"It seems Monash University will go to any lengths to avoid paying workers potentially millions owed in allegedly stolen wages," NTEU National President Alison Barnes said.

"Instead of bending over backwards to shirk responsibility, Monash should own up and pay up.

"We'll vigorously fight Monash's attempt to wriggle out of its obligations to pay staff, which are clearly outlined in the enterprise agreement the University now wants to change after being called out by the union."

There are fears it could encourage other employers to employ similar tactics.

“This case has economy-wide implications,” NTEU Monash Branch President Ben Eltham said.

“If employers can respond to underpayment claims by retrospectively varying their Agreements, this could have a chilling effect on underpayment claims brought by employees across the economy.”

The University's extraordinary Fair Work application came days after almost 100 affected Monash employees and students staged a protest at Monash's Clayton campus.

Last year, in a separate case, Monash University admitted to underpaying its casual academic staff $8.6 million over a six-year period.

Speaking generally, Dr Barnes said wage theft was a rampant sector-wide problem.

"Wage theft is a cancer that must be cut out of higher education," she said.

"Universities have paid back millions in unpaid wages thanks to the efforts of brave NTEU members who have stood up.

"This is exactly why wage theft needs to be made a crime and more secure jobs delivered to cut down on exploitation."

Contact: Matt Coughlan 0400 561 480

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