News: University underpaid staff by 'mistake'

Compensation & Benefits

University underpaid staff by 'mistake'

Charles Sturt University said it has adopted “procedural enhancements” to ensure wage compliance.
University underpaid staff by 'mistake'

More than 2,500 casual employees of Charles Sturt University (CSU) have yet to receive their pay and superannuation dating back to July 2015, a new report says.

CSU Vice Chancellor Renee Leon commissioned an audit of its workers’ pay in response to the controversy over wage compliance involving Australia’s higher education institutions. 

The external review found that the university owes 2,526 current and former workers nearly $4.7 million in back payments. A majority (75%) of the back payments were for $1,000 or less.

In an article by ABC News, CSU attributed the employee underpayments to ‘mistakes’ in the university’s interpretation of Enterprise Agreements.

The university said it has already adopted “procedural enhancements” to make sure that it maintains wage compliance.

Underpayment of workers

Greg Auhl, a branch secretary of National Tertiary Education Union, welcomed the findings of the CSU audit, stating that the university had acknowledged an “enormous” problem.

“We're very happy that our members will get what they have actually earned and what they should have been paid for in the first place,” Auhl said.

When asked about CSU’s explanation of what caused the underpayments, Auhl did not buy the university’s reasoning.

Read more: 1 in 3 APAC firms in off-cycle salary review to counter inflation

“As academic and professional staff we understand what our work entails, so why can't our management understand that?” he pointed out.

Auhl raised concerns about an over reliance on casual workers by many Australian universities.

“For far too long, the higher education sector has relied on the good graces of casual and contract staff to work above and beyond what they're actually paid for,” Auhl said.

Read more: How to negotiate a better salary

In 2020, CSU made headlines after it fired hundreds of employees following a multi-million drop in its revenue due to the Covid pandemic. The university reportedly lost $80 million because of a sharp decline in international students.

Andrew Vann, CSU’s Vice Chancellor at the time, said the university could not make any savings without reducing its staff.

"Unfortunately we can't avoid that," Vann said. "It's a very disappointing place to be obviously, we have very loyal staff."

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Topics: Compensation & Benefits

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