The National Tertiary Education Union will proceed with a multi-million dollar wage theft claim against Monash University in Federal Court, after the university’s second attempt to dodge repaying staff in the Fair Work Commission failed.
A Full Bench of the Commission on Thursday rejected Monash's appeal against Deputy President Bell’s decision in June, which dismissed the university’s application to retrospectively change its enterprise agreement.
Monash University wanted to change the agreement to mean that any scheduled student consultation delivered within a week of tutorial or lecture delivery would be paid for as part of the lecture or tutorial rates.
The union argues that the current provisions require staff to be paid separately for these consultation hours.
The Full Bench’s decision paves the way for the NTEU to pursue an estimated $9 million in wages the union alleges Monash is liable for in Federal Court.
The initial attempt to retrospectively change the enterprise agreement was lodged in October 2022, less than four weeks after the NTEU launched wage theft proceedings.
Around 4,500 staff are affected, including about 3,100 current casuals and more than 1,400 former employees.
Quotes attributable to NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes:
"This is the end of the road for Monash's extraordinary attempt to dodge a wage theft claim.
"Retrospectively allowing an employer to change an enterprise agreement would have been a dangerous precedent for all Australian workers.
“Casual staff at Monash will get their overdue day in court over these incredibly serious wage theft allegations against Monash."
Quotes attributable to NTEU Victorian Division Secretary Sarah Roberts:
"This should be the moment Monash University stops fighting casual workers who just want to be paid for their work.
"It's disgraceful that such extraordinary stalling tactics were employed here but completely unsurprisingly they failed.
"The University should now admit wrongdoing and give thousands of staff the millions of dollars they are owed."
Quotes attributable to NTEU Monash Branch President Dr Ben Eltham:
"It should never have come to this. University leaders like Chancellor Simon McKeon and Professor Susan Elliott launched a high-risk legal manoeuvre, because they wanted to dodge responsibility for underpaying thousands of hard-working academics.”
Dr Eltham said that job security and wage theft are key issues behind the 48-hour strike at Monash University beginning Monday.
“Teaching staff at Monash have already been ripped off more than $8.6 million in wages, as the University admitted in 2021. Staff are deeply dissatisfied with the governance failures that are hurting staff and causing teaching conditions to deteriorate.”
Dr Eltham also called for an independent investigation into wage theft at Monash University. "The University has shown it can’t be trusted to investigate itself. We need an independent inquiry into systemic staff underpayments at this $3 billion public institution."
Monash University staff commence a 48-hour strike on Monday next week, seeking increased job security, inflation-linked pay rises and an end to wage theft.
Matt Coughlan 0400 561 480 / email@example.com