A professional pay stuff-up at Uni Sydney

Working out who is owed how much will take six months

The errors appear to mainly arise from deficient processes for timesheet submission and approval, and some failings in our payroll system,” Vice Chancellor Michael Spence emailed staff yesterday.

An external review to identify who and how much was underpaid will take six months, requiring, a “comprehensive analysis of all payroll data and payments for the past six years.”

Dr Spence says to “address the underlying causes … so the situation will not occur again,” there will be “increased scrutiny of our payroll procedures and systems and a review of relevant work practices and organisational behaviours.” Uni Sydney has long worked to improve its cumbersome administrative system. (CMM March 1 2019).

As to what the error amounts to, Dr Spence says it is, “less than 0.5 per cent of our annual payroll cycle.” Which is a bucket of dosh, the university’s 2019 wage bill (ex on-costs) was $1 072.7bn

This appears a new example of university payroll problems which more commonly involve management mucking up superannuation liabilities. Over the last couple of years James Cook U, Swinburne U, La Trobe U and unis Wollongong and Newcastle have all discovered they had underpaid staff super (CMM January 31).

What it isn’t is a case of staff being paid a lower rate for tasks than enterprise agreements require. There have been cases of casual academic staff in computing at the University of Melbourne being paid the wrong rate dating back to 2015 (CMM October 30 2019). A similar case in maths and stats there was dealt with earlier this year, with academics being paid less  than the rate specified for tutorials they taught (CMM March 27, May 13).