Urgent action needed on wage theft after James Cook University admission

National Tertiary Education Union

The National Tertiary Education Union has called for a national overhaul of university governance after James Cook University admitted to further wage theft.

James Cook University is conducting a new review after identifying “historical compliance concerns” with casual staff payments.

Early indications are that more than 7,500 current and previous staff are affected, but it is not clear how much has been underpaid.

In 2022, JCU found 2000 staff had been underpaid superannuation benefits worth a total of $1 million over an 11-year period.

University staff have suffered more than $170 million in wage theft across Australia in recent years, with rampant casualisation and a broken governance model fuelling the shameful conduct.

NTEU JCU Branch President Dr Jonathan Strauss:

“It’s essential that every cent owed to JCU staff is paid back in full.

“Any underpayment is unacceptable. The NTEU will do everything in its power to ensure this money is fully recovered.

“JCU is a major employer in Cairns and Townsville. It’s critical that the entire community has faith the university is paying staff, particularly their lowest paid staff, properly.”

NTEU Queensland Secretary Michael McNally:

“We really appreciate that JCU management has self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman and has undertaken to work constructively with the NTEU on these underpayments, but it’s clear there are deep systemic problems in the sector fuelling widespread wage theft.

“The national wage theft tally at universities is now beyond $170 million – it’s a staggering and shameful number that demands urgent change.

“Federal and state governments must act on the failure of university governance and the consequent explosion in insecure work that has fostered the wage theft crisis in universities.

“Without major reform through the Universities Accord response, unfortunately we will see more higher education staff having wages and entitlements stolen.”

/Public Release.