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Huge financial blow for university

Australian Currency
The University of WA owes staff $10m in superannuation underpayments.

A top ranking Australian university has been hit with a huge financial blow after it was discovered staff had been underpaid super entitlements since 2013.

The University of Western Australia is now working to reimburse current and former staff $10.6m in super payments, including $4m in interest.

The payments covered a period from 1 July 2013 until now, and affected 5500 former and 2700 current employees.

A statement from the university confirmed it would try to contact all affected employees to apologise and advise that it had commenced a program of back payments.

Magnifying glass on australian dollar banknote as background
The University of Western Australia will backpay current and former staff more than $10m in super entitlements after a discrepancy was picked up during a review.

The discrepancy was discovered during a review of superannuation entitlements by the university which identified shortfalls in the application of the 17 per cent super contribution on some allowances and leave entitlements.

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The University reported the matter to the Fair Work Ombudsman and will now review its payroll and administration processes to ensure its employees receive their correct entitlements and payments.

As part of an ongoing Employee Entitlement Remediation Program throughout 2024, the university will also assess and remediate identified discrepancies in long service leave and casual payments.

UWA vice-chancellor Amit Chakma said the error was unintentional and that affected employees would be reimbursed promptly.
UWA vice-chancellor Amit Chakma said the error was unintentional and that affected employees would be reimbursed promptly.

The National Tertiary Education Union called for urgent reform after the university “admitted to at least $10.6m in wage theft”.

The NTEU expected that figure to rise when UWA completed a review for casual staff later in the year.

NTEU UWA branch president Sanna Peden said UWA staff had every right to be angry about more than $10m in unpaid superannuation entitlements stretching back more than a decade.

“The fact that WA’s richest university has presided over $10m in wage theft shows an urgent need for state and federal governments to come down hard on the executives responsible,” she said.

The National Tertiary Education Union has called for urgent reform.
The National Tertiary Education Union has called for urgent reform.

The union said it was the latest scandal to rock Australian universities, with almost 110,000 staff missing a total of more than $170m in recent years.

NTEU acting WA division secretary Scott Fitzgerald said Australia’s universities were robbing workers blind as part of a shameful business model that thrived on exploitation.

“The time for more excuses and insincere apologies is over. Vice-chancellors must admit this systemic disgrace has poisoned higher education and commit to major changes,” he said.

“It’s clear that federal and state governments’ expectation that universities become exemplary employers is being ignored.

“The only way we can stop the wage theft epidemic is by ending the insecure work crisis and fixing universities’ broken governance model.”

Australian Currency
UWA’s vice-chancellor professor Amit Chakma apologised to the affected employees, assuring them of prompt payment, including interest where applicable.

UWA’s vice-chancellor professor Amit Chakma apologised to the affected employees, assuring them of prompt payment, including interest where applicable.

“I deeply regret this has occurred and offer my apologies to those affected,” he said.

“It was due to differing interpretation of legislative changes and inconsistent understanding of Enterprise Agreement obligations.

“I assure you that discrepancies were unintentional and the university has acted in accordance with what was understood to be our obligations.”