Western NSW Patient Transport Officers Win Big
HSU members who had been employed as Trainee Patient Transport Officers in Western NSW LHD have been awarded a significant windfall, after a long and sustained battle to win justice. Members were paid as trainees long after they should have been transitioned to full Patient Transport Officer rates, but it took a case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, an appeal and a Full Bench decision to finally emerge triumphant.
Taking the LHD to task hasn’t been easy, but it paid off in the end – and helped to show the way for other members whose employers haven’t done the right thing by them.
Members first suspected they weren’t being paid properly in 2014. They spoke to staff from other health districts to find out what they had needed to do to become Patient Transport Officers. It soon became clear that Western NSW was the only health district that classed staff as Trainee Patient Transport Officers for an indefinite period.
After scrutinising the Award, Rodney and his fellow members were pretty sure they should have qualified for the full rate. “I started to speak to other drivers from within my health district and we decided to approach the HSU,” he said.
In April 2018, the HSU took the fight to the Industrial Relations Commission, arguing that members should have been made Patient Transport Officers earlier, and that they should be paid back pay by the LHD.
On 31 January 2019, the Commission handed down a decision stating that our members were entitled to be paid the full Patient Transport Officer rate for the period claimed by the HSU. “After sitting through 5 days of testimony, I was quietly confident,” said Rodney. Unfortunately, the LHD chose to appeal the decision, rather than paying members what they were owed.
That appeal finally came before the Full Bench of the Commission on Monday 11 November 2019. After hearing arguments from both sides, the Full Bench of the Commission denied the LHD leave to appeal the earlier decision. This means that the appeal was won by the HSU, and the decision from January 2019 that our members were entitled to be paid the full Patient Transport Officer rate remains in place.
“Having the IRC rule in our favour, I felt I had my rights as a worker vindicated,” said Robert Fengler, another of the claimants.
“Having a single voice was not getting me anywhere, even though I knew I was right. With the help of the great staff of the HSU and voicing my situation at the IRC along with my colleagues the outcome was great.”
Rodney already has plans for the back pay. “My son has just finished school, so I will pay the remaining school fees and use the rest of the back pay to pay off our credit card and have a nice Christmas. These events put an incredible strain on our personal lives, so now is a time to move on and celebrate the hard-won victory.”