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Fair Work Dispute Outcome: Shift Commencement Allowance (SCA)

By 10 April 2024April 11th, 2024No Comments
The executive are pleased to announce the outcome of a formal dispute process the AEAWA initiated in relation to the Shift Commencement Allowance (SCA).
Please be advised that the SCA will now be payable to ALL Paramedic / AO employees who accept and deploy to a call not only within the first 5 minutes of their shift start, but also to any call accepted PRIOR to commencement of their shift, in full accordance with the terms of Clause 21 ‘Shift Commencement Checks’. Furthermore, as a result on this dispute, there will be a back-payment of approximately 13,000 unpaid SCA’s, for our members.
That equates to around 3250 hours of unpaid work (equivalent to 270 x 12 hour shifts). This is time spent checking equipment, medication and vehicles prior to accepting and deploying to a job, which will now be paid to you, our members. Going forward, it is estimated that there will be approximately 720 pre-shift SCA’s incurred each month that up until now would not have been paid.  As you are aware, an SCA equivalent to 15 minutes pay at 200% of the Employee’s base hourly rate.
Long version:
The Shift Commencement Allowance (SCA) was designed to compensate employees for work performed checking the equipment, medication and vehicles PRIOR to accepting a call. This work had NEVER previously been paid by St John. The new allowance was introduced at the 2021 EBA as a result of a claim by the AEAWA. Since the introduction of the new allowance, St John had refused to pay the SCA in circumstances where pre-shift overtime had also been incurred. That is, they had refused to pay the SCA allowance for ANY job accepted prior to shift commencement.
The issue of underpayment was first raised formally by AEAWA delegates on 31st August 2023, advising St John of their intention to enact the Dispute Settling Procedure, in accordance with clause 38 of the Agreement. Despite extensive correspondence, parties to the Dispute Settling Procedure failed to reach agreement, and the matter was referred by the Fair Work Commission by way of F10 dispute on 21st September 2023. The matter was heard by conference by the Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission.
During conference, an agreement was reached to resolve the matter, however St John later advised the FWC that due to a miscommunication, the agreement was not tenable. Further correspondence between parties and their legal representatives took place, but the matter collapsed due to an unforeseen complexity.
On 1st November 2023 at a Joint Consultative Committee meeting (JCC) the AEAWA again raised the issue of non-payment of SCA, for calls accepted before the commencement of shift. At the JCC meeting, St John stated that their position is that ‘only one penalty rate applies for any pre-shift work’. That is, ‘overtime and the shift commencement check rates were NOT cumulative.’
During the same meeting, UWU representatives also confirmed their agreement with St John interpretation, that the clauses (overtime and SCA) were not cumulative.
We disagreed. On 6th December 2023 the AEAWA again wrote to St John advising of their intention to enact the Dispute Settling Procedure. By 3rd March 2024, the Dispute Settling Procedure had been exhausted, and the AEAWA again lodged an F10 dispute with the Fair Work Commission.
The matter listed for conference before the Deputy President of Fair Work on 8th March 2024, and St John solicitors provided their formal rebuttal of the AEAWA position on 7th March. St John lawyers alleged the payment of an SCA would amount to a ‘double dip’ payment ‘equivalent to 400%’. This was completely untrue, as the SCA payment is for checks performed BEFORE accepting a call. A crew cannot depart for the call and perform equipment checks at the same time.
Clearly, they are two separate time periods.
Over the course of two further Fair Work conferences, some facts were established:
1. St John are the beneficiaries of the work done pre-shift by employees to ready the vehicle and equipment.
2. The wording of clause 21 is clear and unambiguous.
3. The ‘trigger’ for the SCA is accepting and deploying to a call prior to the commencement of shift, or within the first 5 minutes.
4. Therefore, any argument that the SCA is not payable for calls accepted prior to shift is flawed.
After much further correspondence and continued efforts by the AEAWA executive, the Fair Work conferences have provided the means to resolve this dispute. The end result being that St John have agreed to comply with the wording of clause 21 Shift Commencement Checks. From this point onwards, please note *SCA on your timecard for ALL calls accepted BEFORE the start of shift, or within the first 5 minutes of shift commencement. You will be paid the SCA and any pre-shift overtime incurred from the point of deploying to the call.
At the last EBA, St John negotiators and their lawyers agreed to the introduction of a new clause and the SCA allowance.
The clause was intended to compensate employees for time spent performing a growing list of mandatory checks. The checks are required by the employer and are essential for the safe delivery of care. Despite this, it is our view that there was never an intention to pay this allowance for calls attended pre-shift, and the matter of unpaid work would continue for further decades.
In raising this dispute, the AEAWA have corrected this situation. As always, we will fight to ensure our members are paid what they are rightfully owed.
Being run by ambos, for ambos, the AEAWA tackle the issues that other unions fail to understand, or choose to ignore.