Uni Sydney investigating which academic casuals get paid what cash and why

“Different interpretations have been taken to the application of the Enterprise Agreement”

what’s happening: Provost Annamarie Jagose announces “workshops and surveys” of academic and admin managers, “to get a clearer understanding of current practices and procedures for the engagement, work allocation, supervision and payment of casual academic staff.”

good-o, but why?: “The individual teaching approach of each faculty, school or discipline, and the devolved nature of work classification and allocation across the university means, however, that local practises have varied historically. Different interpretations have been taken to the application of the Enterprise Agreement, potentially resulting in inconsistency in local guidance, timesheet completion or payment errors. “

The investigation is to cover every faculty and school.

wasn’t this sorted last year?: In 2021 the university reviewed casual staff payroll data and timesheets and found errors in minimum engagement and hours worked payments, mainly for professional staff.

Just under 13 000 people were owed $12.75m in wages underpaid between January 2014 and December 2020 (CMM September 14 2021).

However, there was a separate claim from casual academics in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, which the university did not accept.  FASS casuals claimed; they were paid piece-work rates rather than for the time tasks took, paid a lower rate than that for work which requires academic judgement when such was necessary and that they were not paid for the actual hours that course admin and class prep took – which they said breached the Enterprise Agreement.

The university responded that it investigated work practises in FASS, “found no evidence to support the allegations and rejected them accordingly,” (CMM October 18 2021).

what’s happening now: There is no word of any specific areas/issues to be investigated. The provost states, “if, as a result of this work, we become aware of any errors in the payment of casual academic staff, action will be taken as a priority to investigate and repay any monies owed.”

Professor Jagose adds staff who believe they have been “incorrectly paid for work performed” can lodge a claim.

And the university advises CMM it is keeping the Fair Work Ombudsman informed.

“We have been engaging and co-operating with the Fair Work Ombudsman on an ongoing basis since our initial self-disclosure in August 2020 and as part of the FWO’s investigation. As part of our engagement, we’ve made the FWO aware of this phase of our review,” a spokesperson tells CMM.

Which is wise, As FW Ombudsman Sandra Parker told an HE audience last year, “we expect Australian universities to invest in governance frameworks and practises that will ensure compliance with workplace laws, (CMM October 11 2021).