Wage theft is rife at universities, but do the managers know it? | Overland literary journal

or radical overwork, it is common for University management to feign surprise
or simply not respond.
Perhaps more important than these detailed studies is the actual experience of
staff. For casuals and the supervisors who hire them, knowledge of
underpayment is standard and regularly acknowledged. To call it an ‘open
secret’ wrongly suggests there is something secret about it.
It is possible that the University of Sydney is an isolated case – a particularly
exploitative employer preying heavily on their precarious staff. However, the
fact that a third of universities in Australia have recently admitted to some form
of underpayment and seven of the eleven public universities in NSW are
currently being audited for wage theft suggests otherwise. Much of this has
come to light due to casuals themselves campaigning. At the University of
Melbourne, millions of dollars are being repaid after casuals staged a years-long
campaign, while at the University of Queensland underpayment has come to
light thanks to casuals keeping records of their own work hours. Nonetheless,
university managements still avoid acknowledging the endemic nature of this
wage theft. A University of Queensland spokesperson read from the same hymn
sheet as their University of Sydney counterpart when they stated that the
university ‘had not seen a systemic issue with underpayment’.
Staff who do the bulk of university work know that wage theft is standard
practice. For any senior manager to deny this suggests they are either wilfully
ignorant, or they have been so far away from the ground of everyday teaching,
research and administration for so long that they don’t know how universities
actually work.

To support the campaign against wage theft in the higher education sector,
please sign the petition.

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supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded
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Yaegan Doran is a casual researcher and lecturer at The University of Sydney
and the Australian Catholic University, and is a member of the University of
Sydney Casuals Network.
More by Yaegan Doran


From A broken casual worker on 10 November 2020 at 1.04 pm
The manager’s jobs should be on the line, not everyone else’s.

From someone who believes in providing education, not a sham degree
on 11 November 2020 at 12.30 pm
What the article doesn’t mention is that in juxtaposition to the shamefully low
incomes of the casual staff who really are the backbone of the university, the
senior management group pay themselves upwards of $1.5 million on salary
alone. 50 of USyd’s top paid execs earn over a million dollars a year, no
including bonuses and other bene ts.
How did it get to this point? How the hell did we end up with these charlatans
and philistines leeching such vast fortunes from the university coffers, all the
while telling us that we all need to do our bit in these ‘tough times’.
These are the same managers that have been systematically destroying the
quality of education by increasing class sizes, lowering standards, and most
We must expel management from their lofty positions and return the
administrators back to what they’re supposed to be doing: namely, providing


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