Local Health Workers benefit from union action

A settlement has been reached between Far West Local Health District and the city’s union, The Broken Hill Town Employees’ Union (BHTEU), over unpaid overtime payments to some health employees.

Back in May 2021, the Chief Industrial Magistrates Court in Broken Hill handed down its decision concerning overtime for a part-time employee of the Far West Local Health District.

The Broken Hill Town Employees’ Union claimed that, in August 2019, the Ministry of Health had agreed to apply that decision as a test case and, as the Ministry was now denying such agreement to do so, in September 2021, the union began similar legal proceedings on behalf of other of its members who the union claimed had been underpaid.

It all revolved around the terms and conditions employment under the former 1997 industrial agreement with the Barrier Industrial Council (BIC). Following lengthy arbitration before the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), that agreement was replaced by a new Broken Hill specific award in February 2022.

In the first half of 2022, upon application of the State of New South Wales, the complex Industrial Magistrates’ Court proceedings were transferred to the New South Wales Supreme Court.

At the beginning of the Supreme Court hearing on April 26 this year, the Court found it was required under the Industrial Relations Act to first refer the dispute for conciliation in the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission to attempt to find a resolution and so avoid a costly hearing.

Through the conciliation process, the BHTEU and the Ministry of Health were finally able to settle the matter without further court action.

Ros Ferry, who is Secretary of the BHTEU, told the Truth, “if it wasn’t for the BHTEU bringing a formal claim against the Ministry of Health, eligible employees would not have received any monies owed to them.

“Our claim, filed on behalf of 40 employees, involved extensive calculations, which were undertaken based on the wages records provided by the FWLHD under subpoena.

“Further records, not previously provided to the union, came to light during the conciliation process.  Unfortunately, not all claims were ‘successful’ due to the terms of settlement reached at conciliation before the IRC.

“What we have learned in recent years, not only in this matter, is that underpayment claims raised by the union against the local health service, which are not settled in a timely manner, will only be determined through the union bringing a formal claim before the court.  This process can be time consuming for the union and, understandably, frustrating for the employees involved. For this reason, employees are urged to be vigilant in ensuring that they are being paid correctly for the work they are undertaking and not just assume that that is the case.”

FWLHD told us they would not be providing a comment.

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