Monash University has systematically underpaid many of its casual academics.

Monash has made the latest admission in Australia’s ongoing university underpayment scandal.

It owes casuals $8.6m for work done over the past 6.5 years.

It comes after the University of Sydney announced it would repay nearly 13,000 casual mainly non-academic staff $12.75 million for lost wages, and the University of Melbourne said it would repay $9.5 million to over 1,000 casual academics.

Reports say several other major local universities have been negotiating with the National Tertiary Education Union over long-term underpayment of casual staff.

This week, Monash University admitted it used “inconsistent descriptions of teaching activities”, leading it to underpay 8 per cent of its academic casual staff for the level of work they were doing.

Monash vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner offered her “sincere apologies” for the “unintentional” errors.

“The university is strongly committed to ensuring all staff are paid correctly and in accordance with the university enterprise agreement and all relevant legislation,” she said in an email to staff.

She said systems would be changed “to prevent this occurring in future”.

Monash branch president of the NTEU, Ben Eltham, says the “wage theft” was caused largely by the university reclassifying lectures and tutorials delivered by casual staff as workshops, practicals or laboratory sessions.

“Staff are paid at the ‘other required academic activity’ hourly rate, rather than the appropriate rate for lectures or tutorials,” Dr Eltham said.

“The practice is widespread and pervasive across the university. Senior managers including the vice-chancellor, provost and chief operating officer were all aware of it.”

He suggested Monash may owe its staff more than the figure it admitted to this week. 

“We think there are probably plenty of stones they haven’t turned over,” he said.

“It’s really time for the regulators to step up. The fact is that this activity has been going on for years under the noses of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and the Fair Work Ombudsman.”