Leon asks: My employer says she doesn’t have to pay me the amount set down in the Award as when I started working for her the Award said I was paid at a lower rate. She said the amount I was employed under is the correct amount and still applies. Is this true? I’ve been here for three years.
Leon, the simple answer to your question is “No”. It most certainly isn’t true.
Every year the Fair Work Commission reviews the national minimum wage and pay rates under Awards. Submissions are made by interested groups and individuals (for example unions, industry groups and welfare organisations).
After due consideration and research, the Commission will then reach a decision. Any increase they decide on comes into effect on 1 July of that same year and will be reflected in the wage rates set down in Modern Awards.
At no time is any increase decided on by the Fair Work Commission optional – one which an employer may or may not choose to pay their staff.
So where does this leave you? By the sound of it, it means your boss owes you some money. If you’re a member of a union, call them to discuss what’s going on.
I’ll assume though that you’re not so here’s what you need to do: find out exactly how much your wages should’ve gone up every financial year (this will mean setting aside some time to sit with a calculator as you’ll have some sums to do).
If you give the Australian Unions team a call on 1300 486 466 they’ll be able to provide you with links to your old Awards.
Once you’ve done your calculations write to your boss outlining how much you’ve been underpaid (I’d include links to the Awards you used just to prove that you know what you’re talking about).
Include in your letter a cut-off date by which you want the money to be paid into your bank account and send it by registered post. This is so you have a record of it being sent and received. Don’t forget to keep a copy for your records.
If you receive the money then all well and good. If you don’t though you can take your complaint to the relevant government department or the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Remember, if you suffer any repercussions for making a complaint to your boss (for example, your shifts are cut or you are dismissed) they have acted unlawfully as there is legislation in place to protect people making a legitimate complaint or enquiry about the wages and conditions.
Why don’t you give us a call? We can go through anything you don’t understand about this process as well as help you join union – which after all is the best thing any worker can do to make sure they’re protected at work.
Good luck with everything – by the sounds of it you might be in line for some extra spending money for the holiday season!