Canberra hospital cleaners face penalty rate cuts

Cleaners union calls on government to intervene amid pay dispute.

Support workers, including cleaners, at the University of Canberra Hospital (UCH) are facing a penalty rate cut, with United Voice calling on the state government to intervene.

According to United Voice the cuts are because the cleaners, employed by service operator Medirest, are classified under the Hospitality Award.

It is understood the hospital support workers were due to face the penalty rate at the start of the new financial year. Medirest reportedly informed United Voice it would offer a two-month reprieve and instead deliver the penalty rate cut from 1 September.

The union said it was concerned over the misclassification of the hospital’s support staff under the Hospitality Award, which it claims “defies logic and is a deliberate attempt to piggyback into the penalty rate cuts, in order to cut weekend pay rates for the hospital’s workers”.

United Voice ACT branch secretary Lyndal Ryan said the situation is “largely the fault of privatisation by stealth.”

“It has been an anxious time for support workers at UCH, frustrated by the fact that they have been waiting for 12 months to win what the community expects them to be paid.

Ryan said when the hospital opened the ACT Health Minister gave the union an undertaking over pay rates at UCH – that the government would meet any shortfall in the funding between what the contractor was paying workers and what workers should be paid to meet community standards.

“On 11 June 2019 United Voice sought an assurance from Medirest, the company that employs the support staff at UCH, that they would not apply these penalty rate cuts. They have contacted the union just a week out from the new financial year to offer a two-month reprieve.

“[The government] must ensure that the appropriate pay and conditions are provided to the staff providing the services at the hospital. The government should definitely not be overseeing penalty rate cuts – delivering pay cuts to the hospital’s weekend workers does not meet community standards.”

A Medirest spokesperson told INCLEAN the company is currently involved in an enterprise agreement negotiation with its staff at the University of Canberra Hospital.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith and it is not appropriate to speculate on the outcome of the agreement at this time,” the spokesperson said.

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