Australian Catholic University admits to $3.6 million wage theft

National Tertiary Education Union

Australian Catholic University has admitted to underpaying 1100 staff $3.6 million in the latest case of higher education wage theft.

ACU has committed to full backpay with interest as soon as possible over the underpayments, which happened between 2016 and 2023.

More than 101,730 university staff have now suffered $170.3 million in wage theft nationwide in recent years.

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said the university’s admission was further proof wage theft was endemic in higher education.

“There’s barely a university in Australia which hasn’t been caught out stealing workers’ wages,” she said.

“Wage theft is the symptom and insecure work is the disease.

“It’s extremely disappointing but not surprising that casual staff have once again been the victims of this egregious conduct.

“Underpayments and aggressive casualisation are baked into universities’ business models.

“The Universities Accord has called on universities to become exemplary employers, this is yet another example of how desperately we need to realise that goal.

“With more than $170 million in underpayments affecting more than 100,000 staff, we need major reforms tackling insecure work and governance if we’re to even make unis acceptable, let alone exemplary employers.”

NTEU ACU Branch President Dr Leah Kaufmann said university management had shown contrition and was committed to taking responsibility.

“We are disappointed that the NTEU was not consulted before today, given ACU became aware there was an issue in late 2022, but we look forward to working with ACU to ensure ACU sessional staff conditions comply with the provisions of our Enterprise Agreement,” she said.

“This is extremely serious systemic wage underpayment or an estimated $3.6 million to 1100 sessional staff.

“Unlike some other universities, ACU management has reported itself, apologised, committed to full back payments within 28 days, and will be providing access to support for staff identified as the victims of underpayment.

“The NTEU also welcomes ACU’s commitment to pay every sessional employee at the highest rate until they can be confident in their payment systems ensuring staff are paid at the appropriate rate.

“This should be a lesson to all universities: if you’re not sure, pay more.”

/Public Release.