Fair Work Ombudsman launches legal action against Melbourne University over alleged coercion of casual academics

Fair Work Ombudsman launches legal action against Melbourne University over alleged coercion of casual academics

On August 1, she emailed the university’s People and Culture department saying she was having issues with her supervisor and her contracts. She received a contract for the winter intensive period on August 3, but was told the university was cutting 450 jobs and her second semester contract was “in the pipeline”.

Fair Work alleges Tsongas’ supervisor said words to the effect of, “if you claim outside your contracted hours, don’t expect work next year”.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the staff were threatened because they complained about needing to work more than the anticipated hours in their contracts. It also claims their supervisor prevented them from claiming extra hours.

In January 2021, Tsongas again submitted a time card that included extra hours worked. But she was allegedly told she’d only be paid for hours agreed in her contract de ella, with an initial reference to “anticipated hours” deleted. She was allegedly told to resubmit her time card.

In an email exchange to a professor outlined in court documents, a supervisor allegedly called Tsongas a “self-entitled Y-genner”.


Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the university’s conduct undermined fundamental employee rights.

“We treat allegations of employers taking action to stop or prevent employees from claiming their lawful entitlements very seriously. Adverse action and coercion directly undermine workplace laws and the ability of employees to exercise their lawful rights,” Parker said.

A University of Melbourne spokesperson said the university was committed to complying with all of its obligations to staff under the enterprise agreement and “highly values” all its employees, including casual staff and “the significant contribution they make”.

The university is looking over the allegations and will respond through relevant court processes.

The spokesperson said the university was working to identify any practices that were inconsistent with their obligations and doing “everything we can” to remediate and “fully comply”.

The legal action comes while a separate ombudsman’s investigation is underway into alleged underpayments of casual academics by the University of Melbourne.

National Tertiary Education Union branch president Annette Herrera said it was shocking and that investigations were continuing “school by school, faculty by faculty”.

“How many more inquiries do we have to do to make this change?”

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