Thursday, January 07, 2010


Red News Readers,

What were the ANF and NSWNA thinking? Thank heavens for Fair Work!

Jenny Haines

Fair Work rejects attempt to remove overtime pay


January 8, 2010

FAIR WORK AUSTRALIA has rejected a pay deal for nurses at one of the nation's biggest aged-care operators, which sought to remove overtime payments if staff had volunteered to work the extra hours.

Commissioner Greg Smith said the deal would undermine the 38-hour week and new National Employment Standards, and had ''far-reaching implications for the operation of the safety net of wages and conditions''.

In the first Fair Work decision of 2010, the deal was rejected as failing the ''no disadvantage'' test, despite being supported by two unions.

Paul Gilbert, the acting secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Nurses Federation, welcomed the decision. ''It is a good sign we have an independent review of these things again. We haven't had one for a long time,'' he said.

Under the clause put by Bupa Care to 1600 nurses in Victoria, if staff requested to work additional hours or at particular times, because of personal or financial circumstances, overtime payments would not be applicable.

However, Commissioner Smith noted the workforce was mostly female and part-time, and said if a nurse preferred night shift because of family responsibilities, she or he should not lose penalty rates. ''FWA is being asked to accept that a person believes they are better off because they get work at a rate below the safety net. The same could be said of a person who would offer work at an amount below the minimum wage thereby giving themselves a cost and competitive edge … The concept could apply to public holidays,'' Commissioner Smith said in the judgment.

Bupa was seeking to cut costs, not benefit its staff. ''It would be difficult to suggest that an employee would see the benefit in being paid less than that which would ordinarily apply.''

The ruling is likely to stop the clause being put to nurses at 22 aged-care homes in NSW, where an agreement is still being negotiated. Bupa had proposed the overtime clause, based on previous agreements, to allow staff working two jobs through an agency at different aged care homes to be employed directly by Bupa. The Victorian union initially opposed it.