University of Western Australia to Back Pay Staff Over $10 Million in Superannuation

A leading Australian university has been hit with a substantial financial penalty after discovering that staff had been underpaid their superannuation entitlements since 2013.

The University of Western Australia (UWA) is set to reimburse current and former staff a total of $10.6 million in superannuation payments, including $4 million in interest.

These payments cover the period from July 1, 2013, to the present, affecting 5,500 former and 2,700 current employees.

In a statement, the university confirmed it would reach out to all affected employees to apologize and inform them of the back payment program.

The discrepancy was uncovered during a review of superannuation entitlements, which revealed shortfalls in the application of the 17 percent superannuation contribution on certain allowances and leave entitlements.

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

As part of an ongoing Employee Entitlement Remediation Program throughout 2024, UWA will also address and correct identified discrepancies in long service leave and casual payments.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) called for urgent reforms after UWA admitted to what it termed “at least $10.6 million in wage theft.”

The NTEU anticipates this figure may rise once UWA completes its review for casual staff later in the year.

NTEU UWA branch president Sanna Peden stated that staff had every right to be angry about the unpaid superannuation entitlements stretching back over a decade.

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

The union highlighted that this incident is the latest in a series of scandals affecting Australian universities, with nearly 110,000 staff missing out on a total of more than $170 million in recent years.

NTEU acting WA division secretary Scott Fitzgerald accused Australian universities of exploiting workers as part of a shameful business model.

“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.”

UWA’s vice-chancellor, Professor Amit Chakma, apologized 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 interpretations of legislative changes and inconsistent understanding of Enterprise Agreement obligations.

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



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