Policy Submissions

Submission on Unlawful Underpayment of Employees’ Remuneration

6 Mar 20

Download: Submission on Unlawful Underpayment of Employees’ Remuneration

It is crucial to consider what inequalities are now being exacerbated within the Australian higher education system, given high fees, low levels of income support, limited availability of scholarships for research students, and the blurred lines between work and study relationships.

While casual employment is generally understood to be associated with low-skill roles, this is less and less the case within universities in particular. As outlined above, Australian universities have a growing record of underpayment and non-payment of their employees, and their students are open to exploitation. Experiences within the sector—especially among those most vulnerable to exploitation (e.g., international students)—reveal problems in Australian Industrial Relations more broadly. On this basis, CAPA’s recommendations to the Senate Standing Committees on Economics are as follows:

  1. Improve institutional reporting and accountability around different forms of non-paid and underpaid employment and levels of remuneration.
    • Require employers to publicly report on all forms of ‘non-standard’ work and their levels of pay on a per head basis. This would include casual, fixed-term, work undertaken by individuals using ABNs, as well as sub-contractors/third-party providers. A body such as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) is well equipped to collect and disseminate this data.
    • Initiate an inquiry into the extent of unpaid labour, including working beyond paid hours and HDR study, in public institutions such as higher education.
  2. Address the spread of unpaid work as ‘training’ throughout Australia’s employment sectors, including within universities. This means acknowledging HDRs’ roles as university staff members and would require the following:
    • Make RTP (or equivalent value stipends) available to all HDR students.
    • Extend RTP stipends to the full length of HDR degrees at a minimum: 4+ years for PhDs and 2+ years for Masters by Research degrees.
    • Increase the minimum value of RTP stipends to at least the minimum wage.
    • Where not otherwise covered by an RTP or equivalent stipend for any reason (e.g., the expiration of their RTP stipend), make all full-time domestic HDR students eligible to receive Austudy and related Centrelink payments (subject to means testing).
  3. Launch an inquiry into international student exploitation across Australia, including the underpayment and non-payment of international student employees. This would aim to:
    • Provide adequate and clear employment information for international students.
    • Offer services and support in cases of international student exploitation.
    • Enforce penalties for non-compliant employers.