Monash University's attempt to retrospectively change its enterprise agreement in a bid to dodge wage theft has failed.
In a major win for the National Tertiary Education Union and workers across the economy, the Fair Work Commission rejected Monash's case.
The University's application would have changed the agreement to mean that any student consultation within a week of tutorial or lecture delivery would be paid for through lecture and tutorial rates.
The NTEU conservatively estimates that changing the agreement would have effectively avoided Monash paying a $9 million wage theft bill the Union alleges it is liable for.
The Union's victory affects some 4,500 staff, including about 3,100 current casuals and more than 1,400 former employees.
NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said:
"This is a massive win for all Australian workers. Allowing an employer to retrospectively change enterprise agreements to wriggle out of paying staff for their work would have set a disastrous precedent.
"Instead, the Commission has ruled strongly in favour of the NTEU and the casual staff at Monash who are still owed millions of dollars in unpaid wages.
"This case is yet another example of the toxic effect insecure work has on higher education. We need more secure jobs to stamp out exploitation."
NTEU Victorian Division Secretary Sarah Roberts said:
"Our members stood up to a bully and won. Monash has been comprehensively defeated by the power of workers banding together.
"Now it's time for Monash to pay up. Their attempt to dodge their obligations has failed.
"The University should now admit wrongdoing and give thousands of staff the millions of dollars they are owed."
NTEU Monash Branch President Dr Ben Eltham called for an independent investigation into underpayments at Monash University.
“This case should never have made it to the Commission. It was an ill-judged attempt to derail an underpayment claim from staff and the union.
“Monash University has already admitted to more than $8.6 million in underpayments to Monash teachers between 2014 and 2020. It went to the Commission with this application to try and stop a further underpayment claim.
“200 staff members at Monash University made submissions to the Fair Work Commission about this case: not one argued in favour of this variation.
“Monash University Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner will soon be representing all Victorians as Governor of the state. Before she leaves, she should do the right thing and fix up the wage theft she has presided over at Monash University.”
The NTEU Monash branch calls for:
· The University to negotiate with the Union and staff to settle the underpayment claims currently before the Federal Court
· The establishment of an independent audit of all wage underpayments at Monash University, to be conducted by an outside body separate to the University
· That the university apologise to its casual staff for putting them through this ordeal.
Tony Williams, who is a casual academic in Monash's Faculty of Arts, said thousands of his colleagues would now be paid for their important work.
“This decision has the potential to make a real meaningful difference to the lives of thousands of insecure workers," he said.
"The $50 a week may not be much to people on six or seven figure salaries, but for many of us it’s the difference between making rent or not, going to the doctors or not.
"It’s the difference between two-minute noodles and a proper meal."
Matt Coughlan 0400 561 480 / email@example.com