In our last edition of Newsmonth, Industrial Coordinator Amanda Hioe provided several examples of major companies that had been entangled in cases of wage theft, including 7Eleven, Caltex, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza and Red Rooster.
No sector is immune to underpaying its workers, with recent news that the Australian Catholic University underpaid 1100 workers to the tune of $3.6 million over a seven-year period.
And it’s not just the tertiary sector. In 2023, the IEU recovered $1.8 million in underpayments for members.
Tertiary sector a main offender
Prior to the ACU revelation, a report from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) released in December 2023 revealed that more than 97,000 workers in the tertiary education sector had lost $159 million to wage theft, mainly since 2014.
The two worst offenders in NSW, according to the NTEU, were Wollongong University and the University of Sydney. Melbourne University topped the list with $45 million in unpaid wages. “Unfortunately, these numbers will only get worse,” the NTEU said in its report. ACU was not listed at the time.
In December, SBS reported that eight university wage-theft cases were ongoing.
The ACU has denied it has taken part in wage theft, telling the ABC, “Wage theft generally arises where there is an intentional underpayment.” Whether it’s intentional or accidental, the impact on the employee is the same – lost earnings.
The ACU has apologised and committed to paying the affected workers with interest. In my reading, no mention has been made of any related superannuation payments, or lost earnings on these payments, owing to the impacted workers.
The impacted workers were casual or sessional workers, some of whom no longer work for the university. The NTEU report concluded that casualisation of staff was a predominant factor causing the blight of wage theft in the tertiary education sector.