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Major bank in wage theft row over $45m tea break claims

·2-min read
Image: Getty.
Image: Getty.

The Commonwealth Bank has been blasted over an estimated $45 million underpayment, due to its failure to allow staff a 10-minute tea break.

Retail workers are entitled to one paid 10-minute break for working three hours and another break for five hours, in addition to an unpaid lunch break, Finance Sector Union national secretary Julia Angrisano said on Friday.

However, she said most Commonwealth Bank staff don’t take their breaks as they are under-staffed.

“Our estimate is that the 3,000 bank staff entitled to tea breaks are collectively owed $45 million dollars because the bank hasn’t bothered to honour its 2016 Enterprise Agreement,” Angrisano said.

“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.”

However, the bank vigorously denies the underpayment claims.

A CommBank spokesperson said the bank had not seen any evidence of the underpayment, and that staff were paid for the tea breaks, even if they were unable to take them. 

“This is an ambit claim and we haven't seen any evidence to support it. If someone makes a legitimate claim we'll investigate it," the spokesperson said.

The bank said it will look into the issue if a claim is made, and noted that it was currently negotiating a new Enterprise Agreement covering 33,000 workers. The ballot on the Agreement is due to close next Tuesday. 

The major bank handed over $53.1 million in 2019 after it was found to have underpaid some 41,000 current and former staff who were underpaid wages or other entitlements.

Optus also in the spotlight

Optus yesterday confirmed it will also be repaying thousands of workers for unpaid superannuation contributions.

According to the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union (CEPU), Optus had underpaid 3,600 workers an average $300 each.

"As a result of changes to our payroll systems and internal processes in recent years, Optus has undertaken a proactive review of staff entitlements with the assistance of independent third party Pricewaterhouse Coopers," Optus said.

“The majority of our employees have not been affected, however, for those who are affected, our priority is to communicate and work directly with affected individuals.”

Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance
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