The University of Tasmania has become the latest institution caught up in a wage underpayment bungle that has already entangled more than a dozen Australian universities.
- A third of the tertiary education sector has now admitted underpaying staff since 2020
- UTAS says it is reviewing thousands of payments
- The union understands the underpayments go back to 2013/14
- UTAS said it was reviewing payments made to thousands of employees and would repay any amounts outstanding, with interest.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has confirmed it is conducting an investigation and called on any staff with concerns about their pay to contact its office.
Chief people officer Jill Bye has written to staff to apologise.
“First of all I want to say sorry,” Ms Bye said.
“Our people are central to who we are as an institution and what we do. Our commitment is that we will be open with people and put things right.”
Ms Bye said the problems had happened due to “historically inconsistent practices” across the university and differing interpretations of complex staff agreements.
The University said the underpayments related to penalties not being correctly applied and to payments for minimum engagement periods, where a staff member is paid for a minimum number of hours regardless of how many they actually work.
In 2020, president of the National Tertiary Education Union Alison Barnes said millions of dollars had been recovered from 13 universities.
“We do not believe wage theft is confined to the now at least 13 universities that have admitted to it,” Dr Barnes said at the time.
“If a third of the sector now admits to underpayment, you can be sure the problem goes a lot further.”
Pat McConville from the Tasmanian division of the NTEU said in 2020, the Fair Work Ombudsman wrote to UTAS asking them to audit their payroll practices.
He said he understood the underpayments went back as far as nine years.
“These underpayments are for penalty rates and minimum hours but we expect there will be many other problems identified,” he said.
“These underpayments may just be the tip of the iceberg. “