It is beyond time you grappled with a critical fact. Wage theft in our universities is not a one-off scandal, but an ingrained crisis.

And its most powerful ingredient is the insecure work inflicted on university workers through short-term contracts and casual employment.

The NTEU celebrated a victory yesterday as the University of Melbourne admitted to underpaying more than 1,000 casual academic staff.

Those staff were victims of what Vice-Chancellor Duncan Maskell admits was a “systemic failure of respect” and “should not be tolerated”.

But they were more than victims, they were also activists who fought back.

Unfortunately, the University of Melbourne is just one example of a much wider problem.

Just over one in three people employed in Australian universities enjoy secure, ongoing work.

This creates a fertile environment for exploitation and has deep human consequences.

The NTEU has won cases where up to half an employee’s wages were stolen.

Wage theft deprives modestly paid casual workers of the income to pay bills, plan for their future or take leave.

To help end this crisis, you must all carefully consider the way forward from here.

We have seen enough evidence of wage theft to know, every university needs a thorough audit of its practices.

There must be greater transparency and much stiffer penalties.

All universities should be compelled to reveal their use of insecure employment.

Wage theft cannot and should not be part of a business model and must end now.

From the membership of the NTEU.


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