CBA in $45 million underpayment stoush

The Financial Sector Union says the bank didn't allow employees to take paid breaks

CBA in $45 million underpayment stoush

The Financial Sector Union has accused Commonwealth Bank of cheating employees out of $45 million by failing to allow many of them to take paid breaks.

In filings lodged Friday with the Federal Court, the FSU accused CBA of failing to allow employees to take rest breaks during shifts due to understaffing, The Australian reported. The FSU claimed that the bank had failed to roster in the breaks since 2014.

CBA employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break after working three hours, and a second break after working five hours, in addition to a 45-minute unpaid lunch break.

The FSU said the bank has repeatedly signed off on workplace agreements that gave employees the right to those breaks, but “took no other steps to ensure that employees who were rostered to work long hours … would receive said break or breaks.”

The FSU has asked the Federal Court to order an audit of time records in order to identify employees “who as a result of their working arrangements [were] entitled to a paid tea break or breaks on any particular day.” The union wants CBA to pay compensation to those workers “for loss of amenity” and the violation of the employee agreement.

“This is wage theft,” FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano told The Australian. “Make no mistake, if you are not able to take a paid rest break, then you’re having 10 minutes of time stolen from you. It adds up very fast. We estimate this claim to be worth at least $45 million across 3,000 workers.”

The FSU said that CBA had argued that it didn’t need to compensate workers who weren’t given breaks “because they’re paid-time breaks” and no money was lost. The union claimed the bank had also argued that untaken tea breaks would attract extra payments under its enterprise agreement before the Fair Work Commission, The Australian reported.

Read next: Westpac faces underpayment probe

Angrisano told the publication that CBA was trying to change “their interpretation depending on who they’re talking to.”

“If people work for more time than they’re paid to work, more time than they’re contracted to work, then the bank owes them for that extra time,” she said.

FSU’s action against the bank comes on the heels of news that Westpac is facing a probe by the Fair Work Ombudsman for allegedly underpaying employees.