Academic casual pay at UNSW: management is checking the books

But there’s $49m put aside in case anybody was underpaid

When a NSW parliamentary inquiry in September asked Ian Jacobs how many casuals UNSW employed the VC knew exactly, 5846 people who collectively accounted for 741 EFT.

But for all Professor Jacobs admirable accuracy the university has had a struggle working what to pay which casual academic staff.

In the 2019 annual report (p 111) UNSW reported provisions of $23.7m for 2018 and $25.6m for ’19 which include “an estimated potential liability to the casual academic workforce.” This was an extrapolation of what was owed to underpaid staff “in one area of the university’s activities.”

It was the business school. Last June the university reported it had paid back casual academic staff who had not received the correct rate for work done. Management also called in consultants, notably Deloitte, to check records back to 2014, (sorry no idea what happened then). And management promised when that was done it would look at other faculties and “fully address any issues that are identified.” This was expected to take 12 months.

The university also expects the Contingent Workforce Project, established in 2019 to improve things, with new tech, “to better integrate casual and permanent staff employment and payroll system” revised operating systems and “additional training and education for managers and other staff.”

It’s the last one that might make the difference that matters most. There are universities around the country which have found casual academic staff being paid a lower rate than enterprise agreements specified for the work they were doing, presumably because managers did not understand complex work definitions.

“So, how’s it going at UNSW,” CMM asked Friday.   “The review of potential underpayments to casual academics covering the whole university continues,” a UNSW representative responded.

“Remediation payments will be made to affected staff as soon as possible and will continue as the review progresses.”

So, for people who believe they are owed money dating back years the cheque is in the (what might seem like) snail mail.