NSWNA investigates SOS for breach of Award and examines dodgy new non union agreement.
The NSWNA is investigating the prosecution of the home nursing agency SOS for breaches of the Award – including its failure to pay the correct kilometre allowance and travel time.
SOS provides home nursing services to clients of the Commonwealth Department of Veterans Affairs. The company employs approximately 200 casual nursing and domestic staff, who care for clients at home predominately in the New England and Central Coast regions of NSW and south Queensland.
Clients can be widely dispersed across a region, meaning that nurses are travelling between clients and can travel hundreds of kilometres each week in rural areas.
According to NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes, SOS is suspected of failing to pay nurses’ minimum entitlements under the Nurses Other than in Hospitals (Notional Agreement Preserving State Award) – including the minimum travel allowance per kilometre.
‘SOS is suspected of underpaying nurses’ travel allowances. They have been travelling in their own cars, sometimes for hundreds of kilometres each week, and have often received nothing from their employer. Sometimes they have been paid an allowance that was less than the minimum,’ said Brett.
Not only is SOS suspected of failing to pay the minimum per kilometre allowance, it is also suspected of failing to pay nurses for travelling time. Many nurses say they were only paid for time spent in face-to-face contact with clients.
‘The job requires nurses to spend hours each week travelling between clients, yet they allegedly were not paid for this time. This is why the Association is examining these suspected breaches very carefully,’ said Brett.
The company stands accused of multiple breaches of the Award – but that’s not bad enough for SOS. The company recently dished out a non union agreement that slashes conditions even further.
The new WorkChoices agreement gives no guaranteed pay rise for three years, strips back penalty rates, and applies no minimum shift.
The agreement also cuts the per kilometre travel allowance to just 20 cents per kilometre – and that’s only after the first 20 kilometres.
The company wants nurses to cover the first 20 kilometres out of their own pockets. Under the Award, nurses should have been paid 62 cents per kilometre. The difference between the Award rate and what the company is offering under the new Agreement is approximately $190 per fortnight.
‘This is what SOS nurses are losing in travel allowances. The lack of pay rises and penalties means even greater losses per fortnight for many nurses,’ said Brett.
As a non union agreement, the NSWNA had no role in the negotiations but the union is examining the validity of a ballot where staff allegedly voted for the non union Agreement. Nurses who received their ballots late should contract the Association immediately.
‘Nominated employee representatives asked SOS that they be present when votes were counted. This appears not to have occurred. This lack of scrutiny in the ballot leaves employees questioning the result,’ said Brett
‘It appears that under WorkChoices employees have no right to be present when the ballot is counted. The failure of the legislation to allow proper scrutiny by employees invites unscrupulous behaviour from a minority of bad employers,’ he said.
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