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Home > News > 2020 > September > Catholic employers renege on back pay while deducting overpayments without warning

Catholic employers renege on back pay while deducting overpayments without warning

Greedy_corporate_man_web_quality.jpgTwo Catholic employers, Toowoomba Catholic Schools Office (TCSO) and Downlands College (Toowoomba) have reneged on the provisions in the new Queensland Catholic Schools’ collective agreements – deciding not to back pay employees who have left their employment before the approval of the new agreements.  

The news comes as multiple member concerns have been raised over other Queensland Catholic Dioceses’ breaking the provisions in the current collective agreement in regard to overpayments, by automatically deducting pay without notifying or consulting affected employees.  

Shameful employer action on back pay  

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the refusal by Toowoomba Catholic Schools Office and Downlands College to back-pay employees who have left?their employment before the agreements are approved by the Fair Work Commission is shameful. 

"This position is contrary not only to the provisions in the agreement but also what has historically occurred under previous agreements with exactly the same provisions.   

“These employers are adopting a highly adversarial approach claiming they are only required to back-pay employees who are employed at the time the agreement is approved by the FWC,” Mr Burke said. 

“This approach by these two employers is unfair, unjust and fails to respect the good work of their employees who were effective and engaged workers in the relevant period in 2019,” Mr Burke said. 

Renege contrary to provisions and historical actions  

The agreement waiting for approval by the FWC provides for percentage wage increases for teaching staff from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2019 and for non-teaching staff from the first full pay period on or after 1 May 2019.  

The agreement awaiting approval, (and the current agreement being replaced) both state that:

“Where this Collective Enterprise Agreement specifies an earlier operative date in relation to a particular provision, then that provision shall operate from that date for all applicable employees employed at that earlier date.” (Clause1.2.3)

Catholic employers have consistently back-paid all staff who were employed at the time the pay increase came into force irrespective of whether they were in the employer’s employ at the time of the agreement approval.

The two employers who have adopted the position have let down all employees and called into question their core values.

Members have been asked to hold Chapter Meetings to discuss this shameful act and pass resolutions demanding the employers urgently revoke their decision.  

Employees have enshrined rights to consultation regarding overpayments 

Our union has also become aware of multiple instances of Queensland Catholic school employers automatically deducting employees’ pay without notifying or consulting with the affected employees first. 

One member contacted our union after realising their pay had been deducted by over 75% with no explanation from her employer.  

When they contacted their employer, they were told it was because of an alleged over payment that occurred in a previous pay but provided no explanation why this occurred or how they had arrived at the total number.  

IEUA-QNT Industrial Services Officer Dannielle Wilson said  this is a massive breach of the current agreement.  

“In this instance, the employer has a legal obligation to notify the employee of the overpayment and to negotiate with the employee about a mutually agreeable repayment plan,” she said.  

“They cannot just deduct from an employee’s next salary or wage payment.  

“In the first instance members should contact our union straight away so we can support them through the process by first establishing there has actually been an overpayment. 

“Members should always question how and why an overpayment occurred and be given detailed calculations about the total alleged figure before they agree to anything.  

“Our union can help cross-check these figures.  

“The agreement is very explicit in how overpayments need to be handled and employees have significant rights if this occurs,” she said.  

The Queensland Catholic Diocesan Agreement states that:  

4.9.1 b) Where the employer seeks to recover such an overpayment the employer will contact the employee in writing to request that a mutually acceptable repayment schedule be agreed.  

c) In the event that a repayment schedule has not been agreed after twenty-eight (28) days from the date of the written request, the employer will have the right to deduct money from the employee’s ordinary wages subject to the following:  

        i) any deduction shall not reduce the employee’s fortnightly wage to less than either the minimum wage, or seventy-five per cent (75%) of the employee’s gross fortnightly income, whichever is greater; 

      (ii) the minimum period over which the deductions can be made is thirteen (13) pay periods; and  

     (iii) any deductions will be made in equal instalments in each pay period, except for the final instalment which may be less than the preceding instalments. 

Any members who have been overpaid and placed in a similar situation, should contact our union immediately for assistance.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.