Nurses, midwives and other health workers targeted by new IR legislation
Published: 2 August 2012
The LNP State government has proceeded with its controversial legislation, which amends the Industrial Relations Act to let Queensland Health unilaterally take money out of the pay of any employee it believes has been overpaid in the future or who receives a transitional loan when the payroll date is changed later this year.
The QNU sent a strong message to the government, the new Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, and the parliamentary committee looking into this legislation, that we did not believe Queensland Health employees should be singled out in this way. We wanted the legislation withdrawn.
The Parliamentary Committee did take on board some of our concerns and recommended some changes aimed at softening the blow. However, the government rejected these suggestions.
By its own admission the new State Government states:
As it is, the Industrial Relations Act only allows an employer to automatically recover wages overpaid due to absence from work. The Industrial Relations Act also prohibits an employer from making deductions from wages unless the deduction is authorised by an award or agreement, by the Industrial Relations Act or by an employee’s written consent.
The amendments in the bill will permit Queensland Health to begin the automatic recovery of non-absence related overpayments systematically and efficiently. (Attorney-General, 1 August 2012)
This legislation means the payroll issue is no longer just about an administrative bungle. The workplace rights of Queensland Health employees have now also been reduced.
As the QNU has consistently stated, the previous Labor government was guilty of a major administrative bungle. However, at all times it respected the workplace rights of its employees and sought to consult whenever action was proposed.
The LNP Government has used the previous government’s administrative mistake to override the rights and entitlements of Queensland Health employees and that is also unacceptable.
As QNU members at Queensland Health know all too well, there is still considerable uncertainty about the accuracy of pay data held by Queensland Health. Yet this State Government has decided to single out Queensland Health employees in this way.
Obviously genuine overpayments have to be repaid at some point and in some way. However, this type of legislative heavy-handedness is not required.
Members can be assured QNU officials will be watching the operation of these new laws carefully. We have made it clear to the Minister – and this was greatly assisted by the strong stance taken by your annual conference delegates in July - that great care should be taken when dealing with overpayments.
The QNU will, at all times, be guided by the annual conference resolution on the issue, which states:
Any recovery process must ensure that:
Any payroll system changes are rigorously tested and trialled before implementation.
If any employee is underpaid no recovery of overpayments will occur until the underpayment is resolved.
Any amount recovered from an employee’s wages will be reasonable given that employee’s financial circumstances.
No recovery will take place until an employee is given prior notice of the intention to commence recovering an overpayment;
Each employee will be given the opportunity to query or halt the recovery of a prior overpayment and that the employer must provide itemised evidence of the overpayment prior to recovery;
After an adjustment has been processed and where an employee suffers personal hardship or other justifiable circumstances, Queensland Health will adjust the amount being recovered to give the employee necessary relief.
An acceptable grievance and dispute resolution procedure must support any recovery process.
Particular attention must be paid to addressing the significant issues related to concurrent employees.
Any member who believes they are being unfairly treated, in relation to recovering an overpayment, should contact the QNU office immediately. This disgraceful legislation and this government’s big majority do not intimidate the QNU. We will always work hard to ensure your workplace rights are respected and protected.
Finally, QNU secretary, Beth Mohle, made a commitment to annual conference to also contact the Opposition Leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, requesting she consider providing the Health Minister with any legal advice considered by the previous government on this payroll issue. Beth has now done that and it is a complex issue.
However, the QNU notes the offer made by the Leader of the Opposition on Monday, 30 July 2012, to give the Health Minister access to certain documents and legal advice related to the Queensland Health payroll debacle.
The documents were considered by the previous government’s Cabinet Budget Review Committee in 2010 and have been the subject of a request from the Minister to access the documents of the previous government.
The QNU notes there are strict conventions surrounding cabinet-related material being released and such documents would not normally be available until 2030.
We appreciate that the Opposition Leader has enabled the Minister to view the documents including legal advice under conditions that still maintain the conventions of cabinet confidentiality.
The QNU welcomes this development and trusts that the Minister has already seen the documents in question or has made arrangements to do so, given his previous statements about how important they are to formulating the new government’s approach to fixing the payroll system.
For first time users your password is your membership number.
Once logged in you should change your password.
If you have forgotten your password you can reset it here.
If you do not have an email address, forgotten your Membership number, or you're having other issues please contact us for further assistance.