QNMU win $45,000 for members in aged care wage theft case

Published: 20 October 2022 
AGED care nursing staff forced to perform on site Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) pre-shift will receive more than $45,000 in back pay following a Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) win.

QNMU Secretary Beth Mohle said nursing staff at Wongaburra Aged Care Facility near Beaudesert would share in the massive backpay win after being forced to spend unpaid hours on site doing COVID-19 tests this year.

Ms Mohle said nursing staff at the Wongaburra facility were made to either arrive at work 15 minutes early to perform a daily RAT test prior to starting paid work or have time taken to perform a RAT deducted from their pay. She said the QNMU win could set a valuable precedent for Queensland aged care nursing staff forced to perform unpaid RAT tests on site prior to beginning a shift.

“The QNMU is very pleased to announce Wongaburra members will share in a total of around $45,000 in back pay and additional penalties,” Ms Mohle said.

“Hard working aged care workers in Queensland’s 400-plus private aged care facilities cannot be made to perform RAT test in their own time. Anything an employer requires an employee to do is work, for which the employer must pay wages. That’s the law.”

“The QNMU is determined to ensure all aged care employers are properly paying their staff for time spent performing tests associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. If they aren’t, the QNMU will seek to ensure all aged care nursing staff are properly compensated.”

Ms Mohle said the case went before the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on 27 September. She said Wongaburra’s barrister requested a meeting with the QNMU minutes before the FWC hearing was due to commence and the QNMU successfully negotiated a backpay settlement and improved conditions for impacted staff.

“The QNMU wants private aged care employers to know we will not tolerate ongoing attempts to take advantage of Queensland’s invaluable aged care workforce,” Ms Mohle said.

“Aged care nursing staff provide care for elderly Queenslanders when they are at their most vulnerable and should be treated with respect and paid a wage that reflects their incredible efforts.”    

The QNMU has pursued a 25% aged care wage rise to properly recognise the ongoing efforts of low paid aged care workers. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), of which the QNMU is part, is one of the applicants responsible for the aged care work-value case regarding the Aged Care Award 2010 and Nurses Award 2010 currently before the FWC. 

In August 2022, the Albanese Government lodged a submission to the FWC in support of a pay rise for aged care staff and has agreed to fully fund the outcome of the case. The FWC will now determine whether a variation of the relevant Award rates of pay is justified by the value of the work performed by the aged care workforce. 

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