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4 min read

Case Win: Navigating a Nurses Wage Dispute

How NPAA Assists Member in Unexpected Wage Conflicts

Most people, at some point in their working life, have held serious concerns that they are not being paid correctly. It’s a high number, but the number of people who actually go on to lodge a wage dispute is much lower. 

One such case involved our member. A former hospital employee at a medical centre and her allegations of underpayment against her employer. The case serves as a vital lesson on the importance of clear communication and mutual understanding irrespective of that conflict which might discourage one from formalising a dispute.

Setting the scene

Our member is a dedicated healthcare professional who found themselves in the midst of a protracted alleged underpayment of several thousand dollars. Our member decided to contact Red Union Support Hub for help. It can be difficult enough to muster the courage to even make an inquiry when you are not sure, yet our member, having tried their level best, was frustrated that her claim was still being refused. We are glad they called! 

The Red Unions are Australia’s fastest growing unions, partly because we will always pick up the phone, and we will always fight for our members.

The crux of the dispute revolved around a change in our member’s Position. In Dec of 2021, An offer was accepted to take up a higher role in a Governance Unit. This new position came with a different pay scale, something that the employer argued was explicitly communicated to our member in their offer of employment. According to the employer, our member  willingly accepted the new position and the associated change in her rate of pay.

The Plot Thickens

However, the dispute raises several questions:

  1. Was our member fully aware of the implications of their acceptance?
  2. Was the change in her pay scale adequately communicated and understood? 

These questions highlight the importance of transparency and understanding in employment contracts.

From an employee's perspective, it is essential to fully comprehend the terms and conditions of an employment contract before signing it. Any changes in job roles, responsibilities, or pay should be clearly explained, and employees should feel comfortable asking questions or seeking clarifications.

From an employer's standpoint, it is equally important to ensure that employees fully understand their employment contracts. Clear, open, and honest communication is key to preventing misunderstandings and disputes down the line.

The Underpayment

Upon one of our Case Managers, Abi, reviewing the case, it became clear that irrespective of whether our member was overtly correct in their initial attempts to recover monies, it was worthwhile to support the member right into the pointy of end of it all. While the employer concluded that while there was no underpayment according to the offer of employment, there were in fact inconsistencies in how our member’s case was handled compared to other employees in similar situations.

In an effort to rectify this, the employer was compelled by our Case Manager to  reassess our member’s pay records. They identified that if the situation had been handled more consistently, there would have been changes in the pay scale for certain key periods. In addition, it was discovered that further allowances were outstanding to our member!

As a result of this reassessment, the gross difference owed actually increased by some thousands of dollars more! The employer agreed to pay this sum to our member shortly after parties had come to terms.

What We May Learn 

This case serves as a reminder that it can be worth the fight even when it is not clear or obvious a win is to be had. This case also demonstrates the potential issues that can arise when otherwise, without the help of a Case Manager, the claim is made that there is no issue at all. Abi’s careful treatment of the issue underscores her clear communication, her willingness to fight, and desire for obtaining convivial agreement, even while both parties are ultimately upsetting the other’s bottom line.

Wage disputes like this are a learning opportunity to not be shy in making your claim for unpaid monies. Even if the odds seem against you, one of our Case Managers are willing to fight for you.

How is the NPAA so effective in defending members during workplace issues and disputes? Our experienced and professional case managers use our unique RED™ case resolution system.

Why is the NPAA different? We believe that real change in healthcare STARTS with empowering frontline nurses, not bureaucrats. 

If you are a member of NPAA and need assistance with a workplace issue, please submit a member support ticket on your dashboard, or contact us at 1300 263 374 - hotline@npaa.asn.au

To find out more about NPAA and become protected today visit: npaa.redunion.com.au/join