Union launches landmark case against Monash University over casual pay

The claim alleges a 2017 handbook told tutors they were expected to provide one office hour for every three paid hours of teaching. The handbook said that it was a “contractual requirement assumed as part of your paid hours and not separately remunerated”.

“You must provide students in your tutorial with advertised times when you are available for consultation on campus,” the handbook allegedly said.

Monash has been on notice the union would file in the court since July. The university has said the dispute was over an interpretation in the enterprise agreement.

A university spokeswoman said the university was very disappointed the union took the “premature and unnecessary” step of lodging a proceeding in the Federal Court.

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She said they had been engaging in good faith with the union to resolve an issue over the interpretation of a section in the enterprise agreement relating to payment of student consultation.

In line with their enterprise agreement, the university sent the union a written response and started a formal dispute resolution process on September 1.

She said the university was planning to engage the Fair Work Commission for support and to act as an “independent umpire” if needed.

“Just a few hours before the dispute resolution meeting was scheduled to occur, the university was notified that the NTEU had lodged proceedings in the Federal Court,” she said.

“The university will continue to act in good faith and will follow the disputes procedure and seek assistance from the Fair Work Commission to resolve these matters.

“The Federal Court application is being reviewed and if that application continues it will be defended.”

NTEU national president Dr Alison Barnes said wage theft was rampant and a sector-wide issue underpinning university business models and linked to a “scourge of insecure work”.

“That’s why we need a definition of casual employment suitable for higher education and proper funding for more permanent roles,” she said.

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The Fair Work Ombudsman launched legal proceedings against Melbourne University last month over what it says was the coercion and punishment of two casual academics who sought to be paid for the extra hours they had worked.

The ombudsman alleged in court documents that Melbourne University, one of Australia’s richest universities, “threatened not to re-employ the two academics with the intent to coerce them to not exercise their workplace right to claim payment for the extra work”.

A spokesperson said the university was looking at the allegations and would respond through relevant court proceedings.

Monash University recorded a consolidated pre-tax operating surplus of $416 million in 2021.

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