The NTEU has referred the University of Melbourne to the Fair Work Commission over the underpayment of casual academic staff who are at loggerheads with the university over pay dispute.
The University of Melbourne abruptly stopped paying PhD rates to casual academic staff in possession of doctoral qualifications across a number of Faculties, in March 2021. When the union requested an explanation, University management claimed it had effectively re-interpreted the enterprise agreement.
The requirement to pay casual academics in possession of a relevant PhD a higher minimum rate than sessional academics who do not have a doctoral qualification (a difference of approximately $10 per hour) has been a uniform industrial standard in the higher education sector for decades.
Hundreds of impacted casual staff were not consulted nor given notice regarding the unilateral cut to their wages. The matter was also not raised by the University during bargaining for the enterprise agreement.
The NTEU lodged a pay dispute with the University in May 2021 and has attempted to negotiate with management extensively. Further, more than 1,000 staff and students signed an open letter addressed to the University over the dispute, which was delivered to University Council on March 7, 2022.
However, the University of Melbourne refuses to reverse its decision.
NTEU Victorian Division Assistant Secretary Sarah Roberts said the union had no choice but to refer the matter to the Fair Work Commission.
“We gave the University ample opportunity to reverse its illogical decision over payment rates, agree to back pay staff and issue an unreserved apology, but management has failed to do so,” Ms Roberts said.
“It is outrageous University management is attempting to blame the union for not rectifying the issue, when they are responsible for payroll and remunerating workers correctly.
“Hundreds of modestly paid casual workers are worse off because high-income university managers cannot or refuse to do their jobs.
“This is the same university which last year had to apologise for stealing millions of dollars from workers’ back pockets.
“At the time, Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell said it was a ‘systemic failure of respect’ and ‘should not be tolerated’, yet this is happening again.
“Paying incorrect rates is just one of a number of sneaky strategies university bosses use to underpay casual staff.
“The NTEU will continue to hold university managements across Australia to account on behalf of all staff and we thank brave casual workers who fight so hard for what they’re owed.”
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