Fair Work Ombudsman takes Uni Melbourne to court

FWO has commenced a case in the Federal Court against Uni Melbourne, “alleging it coerced and took adverse action against two casual academics to stop them from claiming payment for work performed”

The two academics were on casual contracts with the Graduate School of Education.

“The academics were engaged on contracts which set out the number of ‘anticipated hours’ per subject. The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that the threat was made because the academics complained about being required to work more hours than the anticipated hours in their contracts and to prevent them from exercising a workplace right to be paid for the extra hours.”

The FWO adds it is separately investigating  alleged underpayment of University of Melbourne casual academic employees.

Last year Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell commented on underpayment of casual staff and referred to “a systemic failure of respect from this institution for those valued, indeed vital employees,” (CMM September 10).

Yesterday Uni Melbourne added, “The University highly values all its employees including casual staff members and the significant contribution they make.

As to the Ombudsman’s case, “it is looking at the specific allegations very carefully and once it has considered them will respond through relevant court processes.”

FWO also states, ““we are currently investigating a range of underpayment issues in the universities sector, including failures to pay casual academics for all hours worked.”

It is now clear where such investigations could end up– which could be very bad news indeed for some universities. AS FW Ombudsman Sandra Parker told a universities audience last year, “we expect Australian universities to invest in governance frameworks and practises that will ensure compliance with workplace laws, (CMM October 11).