RMIT casuals win millions in repayment as the ombudsman pursues 14 unis

Ombudsman Sandra Parker revealed in October that her office was investigating 14 universities regarding the issue.

Ms Parker said pursuing universities sucked so much of her office time that it drained resources from helping other categories of vulnerable workers.

In a webinar on YouTube, Ms. Parker also reprimanded university executives who had suggested the underpayments were not significant.

“We often hear from employers that the underpayments are a small percentage of the total salary,” Ms Parker said.

“Our response is that the amounts owed by the workers are not small for them, and they are very quick to point out to us that their leaders never seem to be underpaid.”

Sarah Roberts of the National Tertiary Education Union said four out of eight public universities were confirmed to have underpaid their random staff, suggesting that wage theft was not only systemic but “relied on as part of the business model”.

“If you underpay a casual, they are least likely to say something is wrong because they are very dependent on their income from their employer and that income is uncertain.”

In the case of RMIT, it has been alleged that academic staff were paid an incorrect hourly rate to mark students’ assignments, receiving a standard grade rate that is $ 10 to $ 20 lower than the “academic grade” rate they owed.

Belinda Grant, a session teacher in architecture at RMIT University's School of Architecture and Design, will receive thousands in reimbursement for work done over the past seven years.

Belinda Grant, a session teacher in architecture at RMIT University’s School of Architecture and Design, will receive thousands in reimbursement for work done over the past seven years.

Practicing architect Belinda Grant is a session teacher at RMIT’s School of Architecture and Design. The union estimates she stands to receive $ 6,000 in arrears for time spent marking students’ assignments since 2014.

It was not until last year, when reports of systematic underpayments of random staff at Australian universities began to run in the media, that Mrs Grant began to suspect that she was not getting what she owed either.

Ms Grant said she initially felt intimidated by raising the issue, but feels upset now that it has been confirmed that she missed out on being paid the full grading rate for work that stretches back over seven years of marking.

She has previously worked for “big pharma” and said they were far better employers than RMIT University.

“They actually cared about their staff and saw them as a resource to be supported and paid for properly; they did not see their staff as a force to be exploited, and that’s how I felt at RMIT,” Ms Clark said.

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