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Commonwealth Bank has found itself in the middle of a tempest over a teapot.
The Big Four bank is accused of owing its staff $45 million in back pay for failing to provide 10-minute paid tea breaks.
The Finance Sector Union claims that an estimated 3,000 CBA employees across Australia are owed an average of $15,000 each in back pay. The union is considering legal action against the banking giant, according to a report by The Australian. CBA said it was waiting to see evidence of the claim.
The claim comes amidst a vote on a new enterprise agreement that will affect 33,000 CBA employees. That agreement will give pay raises of up to 3.25% this year and 3% in 2022. However, the bank and the union are at loggerheads on issues including pay, rostered days off and superannuation, The Australian reported.
Julia Angrisano, FSU national secretary, said retail bank employees were “at breaking point because of staff shortages and the effects of being massively overworked.”
“This is a claim about tea breaks, but the real issue here is that every bank branch is so short-staffed, everyone is run off their feet, without even a moment to have a cuppa,” Angrisano told The Australian.
She said that CBA had not honoured a 2016 enterprise agreement that included up to two 10-minute tea breaks per day.
“The bank should conduct an audit of its pay and attendance records going back six years,” Angrisano said. “No one should have to work so hard that they can’t even take a few minutes for a cup of tea and coffee to recover during a shift.”
Angrisano said that CBA staff across Australia had complained to the FSU about missed tea breaks, and that the union was mulling filing a claim against CBA in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia if the bank didn’t reimburse employees.
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However, a CBA spokesman told The Australian that the bank hadn’t “seen any evidence to support” the claim.
“If someone makes a legitimate claim, we’ll investigate it,” he said.
However, it wouldn’t be the first time CBA has been found to have shorted employees. In the past few years, the bank has had to reimburse thousands of staff members more than $50 million after a 2018 internal review revealed that some workers had received incorrect entitlements. Other big banks, including NAB and Westpac, have also had to reimburse millions to underpaid employees, The Australian reported.
“Wage theft is rife across all parts of the economy, and the finance sector is not immune,” Angrisano said.
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