Over $107.8 million wage theft at Australian universities

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has released a report that revealed wage theft of over $107.8 million across 22 Australian universities since 2020. 

Initially, the report estimated the amount of wage theft to be $83.4 million. However, as of February 12th, the figure has increased to $107.8 million as the University of Melbourne was revealed to owe staff more than $45 million. Meanwhile, the University of Tasmania was found to have underpaid staff $11 million.

The figure includes 34 separate incidents of wage theft at higher education institutions in which a dollar amount has been disclosed. The University of Melbourne commits the highest offence, totalling $31.6 million of underpayment claims from four separate incidents. Following suit is the University of Sydney, with $12.75 million of wage theft, and RMIT at $10 million

Incidents of wage theft were found to be most serious in Victoria, where the total amount accused is said to be more than $50 million. New South Wales was not far behind, with underpayment figures going up to $25 million. 

Institutions accused of underpaying staff in NSW include the University of Sydney, University of Technology, University of Newcastle, Academy of Information Technology and Charles Sturt University.

These figures are said to increase as more information about wage theft occurring at other major institutions like the University of New South Wales, is released. 

In 2021, The Annual Report of UNSW revealed a potential wage theft of over $36 million dollars. While UNSW management was called by the NTEU to commence a review of underpayment to casual staff dating back from 2014, the findings of this review remain unknown. 

According to the Education Minister, Jason Clare, the government is committed to introducing legislation to criminalise the underpayment of staff by the end of 2023. While the NTEU is pushing for stronger penalties and provisions to address insecure work. This includes sentencing bosses in the most extreme cases, and to provide workers with more effective casual conversions.