More than 97,000 university staff have suffered a collective $159 million in wage theft, according to a new National Tertiary Education Union analysis.
The NTEU's second Wage Theft Report has revealed the shocking depth of systemic underpayments in Australian universities.
The analysis of 55 incidents of wage theft across 32 institutions reveals $158,711,178 in underpayments affecting 97,281 individual staff.
The vast majority of the underpayments have occurred since 2014.
The true tally is likely much higher with eight wage theft cases potentially worth millions of dollars still ongoing.
Victoria leads the nation in university wage theft with $75 million ahead of NSW at $65 million and Tasmania at $11 million.
NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said the scale of wage theft demanded action.
"These shocking figures expose the depths of systemic underpayment in Australian universities," she said.
"The fact that wage theft is so widespread in Australian universities is a damning indictment of the current governance model.
"Wage theft has a devastating impact on the lives of university staff. It can mean struggling to make ends meet, being unable to afford to pay bills, or being forced to take on additional work.
"Widespread casualisation has led to rampant wage theft. Unaccountable vice-chancellors on million-dollar salaries have been in charge of this crisis with almost no accountability.
"We need urgent action from all governments to reform the governance model for universities and protect workers from exploitation.
"If universities are to finally become exemplary employers then we need to end the scourge of casualisation using state and federal powers including funding."
Contact: Matt Coughlan 0400 561 480 / [email protected]
Read the full report here.