ABC dysfunction on casuals leads to underpayment crisis

The CPSU says the ABC’s negligent underpayment of thousands of casual staff highlights the national broadcaster’s failed approach to the hiring and treatment of non-permanent staff.

The ABC has confirmed around 2,500 casual staff are likely to have been underpaid over the past six years. Current laws mean staff underpaid before that will not be entitled to be compensated.

The belated admission was prompted by an ongoing national audit of casual ABC employment launched by the CPSU in August last year. The audit has revealed widespread problems with workers being underpaid and being employed on a casual basis when they should have permanent positions. A test case run by the union as a result of the audit showed one member in the ABC’s News division was underpaid by $19,000.

CPSU ABC Section Secretary Sinddy Ealy said: “Clearly the total bill for underpaid wages is going to be substantial and comes at a time when the ABC can ill afford it. The scale of this mistake over so many years would be unacceptable in any workplace, let alone at our national broadcaster.”

“We’ve had concerns about the ABC’s over-reliance on and payment of casual workers for years. As recently as 2016 the CPSU was assured by the ABC that it was paying casual employees in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ABC staff agreement — clearly that is not the case.”

“The people responsible for a mistake of this scale must be held accountable, particularly given their previous denials of any problem. All workers affected by this disgraceful situation should be provided with backpay, and many of these workers should also be given permanent jobs.”

“The ABC’s failure to pay its casual workers correctly serves as a caution to all employers about the risks of casualisation, and also why employers should lift their game when it comes to working cooperatively with unions. Clearly the ABC dismissed the CPSU’s concerns without even checking if there was a problem.”

“Our priority now is to ensure that the ABC’s casual workers get all backpay they are entitled to receive as well as permanent jobs where that’s appropriate. Just as disturbing as this large-scale underpayment at the ABC is that the current laws mean workers underpaid more than six years ago are locked out from receiving compensation.”