The broader effects of the casualisation of academia were called into question last week, after the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) revealed that the ANU has underpaid casual academics since at least the start of this year.

An unknown number of casual academics working at the Fenner School of Environment and Society have been affected by the underpayment, which, according to the NTEU, could total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

An ANU spokesperson told Woroni that the ANU has ‘moved immediately to conduct an audit and rectify any incorrect payments as quickly as possible,’ once becoming aware of the issue.

While the ANU has moved to resolve the problem, NTEU ACT division organiser Lachlan Clohesy has argued that the matter ‘wouldn’t have been fixed had … [staff and union] members not acted’ to flag the problem.

The NTEU ACT division secretary, Rachael Bahl, said that the underpayment was connected to the broader trend of casualisation of employment in academia. Bahl stated that with the increased use of casual workers in academia, job security and protection is reduced, while the potential for wrongful payment and exploitation of staff is increased.

‘Casual workers are already propping up the higher education system in this country,’ Bahl told Woroni. ‘Our workplace laws need to change to protect casual staff from exploitation, and encourage the creation of secure jobs’, she said.

Clohesy said that the effects of casualisation disproportionately affect women. ‘Casualisation – and insecure work more broadly – is also a gender equity issue. Women are overrepresented in casual and fixed-term work, and combined with other factors such as unequal superannuation entitlements, insecure work is a big contributor to the gender pay gap’. The proportion of men and women affected in this case is not known by Woroni.

The NTEU has made a submission to the ACT Government, to the Inquiry into the extent, nature and consequence of insecure work in the ACT.

The ANU spokesperson said that the university is ‘reviewing its payroll data, including superannuation’, and that they expect to have fully resolved the matter within the next six weeks.

All affected staff have been contacted directly by the University.

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