The Finance Sector Union (FSU) has today lodged a claim against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) in the Federal Court over its failure to allow retail banking staff to take ten-minute rest breaks during shifts.
FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano said CBA workers were entitled to one paid ten-minute rest break after working three hours and a second after five hours in addition to a 45-minute unpaid lunch break.
“Our members working in bank branches are entitled to these rest breaks, but most are never able to take them because of under-staffing,” Ms Angrisano said.
“This is wage theft. Make no mistake, if you are not able to take a paid rest break, then you’re having ten minutes of time stolen from you. It adds up very fast. We estimate this claim to be worth at least $45 million across 3000 workers.”
Systemic unpaid work is built into our system. Its bad for workers & bad the economy. Employers & their highly paid consultants complain about the complexity of EBAs & Awards yet have no problem finding loopholes in 000s of pages of tax law. https://t.co/Pmf2ZJja99
— Julia Angrisano (@Julia_FSU) January 21, 2022
Ms Angrisano said the tea breaks were an entitlement and intended to give bank staff a short rest from continuous face-to-face service to customers.
“This is a claim about rest breaks but the real issue here is that every CBA branch is so short staffed, everyone is run off their feet, without even a moment to have a drink and check their phone – and that’s before you factor in the global pandemic!”
“We don’t just want the money repaid, we want CBA to staff their branches realistically so that our members can take the breaks they’re entitled to, book the leave they want, and have a sick day without being hassled to come in.”
“It’s pretty disgraceful that Australia’s biggest, richest bank is choosing to engage in wage theft and deliberate understaffing.”
CBA has publicly argued that compensation is not owed in relation to these breaks because they’re paid time breaks, and even where they’re not taken, no pay is lost.
“The Bank’s argument is nothing but weasel words. If people work for more time than they’re paid to work, more than they’re contracted to work, then the bank owes them for that extra time. You can bet that the bank would have a different view if the shoe were on the other foot and our members were knocking off half an hour early every day and still expecting a full day’s pay!”
CBA has also argued the opposite – that untaken tea breaks would attract extra payment under the Enterprise Agreement (the FSU’s position in this case) in the Fair Work Commission while attempting to defend the Enterprise Agreement’s ability to pass the Better Off Overall test.
“CBA’s arrogance in trying to have this argument both ways and changing their interpretation depending on who they’re talking to is exactly what the community is sick of from Australia’s banks.”
“We won’t stop until they get their act together. For our members and the community.”
A CBA spokesman has been quoted in the AFR saying “we have not received the claim referred to in the FSU’s press release”.
“We will carefully review it once it is served.”
If you are or have worked for the Commonwealth bank, you should keep a close eye on the developments in this case.
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