JCU confirms underpaying casual employees

University blames 'historical issues' in payroll systems, processes

JCU confirms underpaying casual employees

Some casual employees at James Cook University (JCU) may not have been paid correctly after the institution found issues with its payroll systems and processes.

In a statement, JCU said an initial assessment of their payroll systems found potential non-compliance for minimum hours worked and other entitlements for casual employees.

"I can confirm that, unfortunately, some historical issues have been identified and we deeply regret these," said Vice Chancellor Professor Simon Biggs in a statement.

Biggs said the number of staff members affected has yet to be determined, but any required remediation is considered "a matter of urgency."

"Our focus is firmly on ensuring our casual staff members are being paid correctly and the rectification of any past issues," the vice chancellor said.

Jonathan Strauss, JCU branch president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), said the underpayment is "unacceptable."

"It's essential that every cent owed to JCU staff is paid back in full," Strauss said in a statement. "The NTEU will do everything in its power to ensure this money is fully recovered."

This is not the first of such case for JCU, after it found in 2022 that 2,000 employees had been underpaid superannuation benefits worth a total of $1 million over an 11-year period.

JCU orders thorough review of payroll

JCU has now formed a project team to carry out a thorough review of its payroll records, according to Biggs.

"We will also take this opportunity to review our processes and systems more broadly to ensure that they are more robust against such issues going forward," he said.

He added that the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has been informed of their decision to undertake a comprehensive review and will be in regular communication with them during the process.

Michael McNally, NTEU Queensland Secretary, said they appreciated JCU's initiative to self-report to the FWO.

"But it's clear there are deep systemic problems in the sector fuelling widespread wage theft," McNally said.

According to the NTEU official, national wage theft tally at universities is now more than a "staggering and shameful" $170 million.

Early this year, the Australian Catholic University also disclosed that it underpaid around 1,100 casual employees by approximately $3.6 million between 2016 and 2023.

McNally said federal and state governments must address the issues that fostered 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," he said.


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