The AWU has delivered a significant win for a NPWS field officer who had been underpaid for months.
The officer, who spent many weeks tackling the recent bush fires on the NSW/Victorian border, had been undertaking work and duties above his pay grade but not getting paid for it.
It was only when the AWU NSW branch got involved that NPWS said they would investigate and carried out an audit.
He has just received a lump sum of more than $13,000 for the full period of his higher duties which includes a pay adjustment over the five month fire season. Importantly, he has also been moved up a pay grade.
Riverina organiser Mick Ivill said: “This member came to us and explained he was being asked to carry out a lot of duties that were not in his pay grade. This didn’t sound right to us at all so we called for a thorough investigation.
“He’s clearly delighted with the win. This is a significant amount of money for anyone, but for a junior member of the NPWS it’s a huge bonus.”
The AWU has discovered that this is not a one-off case of underpayment amongst NPWS staff and could be far more widespread.
AWU NSW Assistant Branch Secretary Paul Noack said: “The NPWS has had its budget cut year after year and the burden is falling on our members. Junior officers are increasingly being asked to take on more senior duties, without getting paid for it, and without the chance to progress up the career ladder. It’s incredibly demoralising to these workers who put their lives at risk during the last bush fire season.
“It’s only right they get paid properly for the work they do, and get the chance to be promoted as they become more experienced. The AWU will fight for every single member who is being ripped off and denied a chance to move up in the service.”
The AWU is currently investigating another two cases of NPWS employees being underpaid.
The AWU is also pushing on with its battle to ensure the NPWS is fully funded and fully staffed and has just written to NSW Minister for the Environment Matt Kean.
Of key concern are the 50 field officer/ firefighting vacancies which the AWU has learnt are going to be deleted by NPWS. This move flies in the face of the NSW Bush Fire Inquiry Final Report which called for these positions to be filled within a year.
National Secretary Daniel Walton is also seeking clarification about the fate of the 123 extra field officers who were hired for a temporary year long position, but have now had their tenure reduced to just nine months.
Mr Walton wrote: “By the time they have been trained up and gained firefighting experience, it will be time to depart. Next year the NPWS will be in a position of having even fewer permanent firefighters unless the NSW Government acts now.”
Mr Walton is meeting with the Minister in mid October, and we will be providing an update.
The AWU will continue to fight for all NPWS members over the coming months, but anyone with any pay or job concerns is urged to contact their union representative.
You can help the AWU protect NPWS members by joining your union today.