Wage theft and casual work are built into university business models

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On top of this, the associated problem of wage theft is widespread. In a newly released National
Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) survey of 2,174 professional and academic staff at every university
except Charles Darwin, almost four in five academic respondents claimed one or other form of
University managers have been keen to deny the extent of casualisation. They point to figures showing
casuals comprise only a small proportion of their workforce on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis.
Universities are only required to report their staffing figures to the Education Department on an FTE
basis. This underestimates the actual headcount of casual staff.
The NTEU estimates the proportion of casual employees in Australian public universities is about
This estimate closely matches the data universities provide to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
It’s the only government agency that requires all Australian universities to report their total staff
numbers by employment category. The agency’s data show the proportion of casual staff is as high as
58% at some universities.

Read more: Casual academics aren't going anywhere, so what can universities do to
ensure learning isn't affected?

Casual work and wage theft go together
University managers typically downplay the problem of wage theft. In a recent submission to the
Senate Inquiry into Unlawful Underpayment of Employees’ Remuneration, the Australian Higher
Education Industrial Association (AHEIA), an employer group representing universities, claimed
wage theft is not a systemic issue in Australian universities.
Yet we now know that in NSW alone seven of the 11 public universities have indicated they are being,
or have recently been, audited for underpayment of staff – Sydney, UNSW, Western Sydney,
Newcastle, Wollongong, Charles Sturt and New England. Other Australian universities accused of
underpayment include Melbourne, Monash and RMIT in Victoria, the University of Queensland, and
UWA and Murdoch in Western Australia.
This is an indication of the scale of the problem. And well-paid vice chancellors value casuals for more
than just being able to end their employment at a moment’s notice. Casuals can be paid less than they
are owed. Wage theft, normally associated with the hospitality industry, has become rife within


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