Hostel staff get backpay

Last updated 12:00 06/03/2014

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Boarding schools in the Manawatu-Whanganui region are assessing the implications of a court ruling that could result in hostel workers receiving back payment for sleepover shifts.

The Employment Court recently awarded six years of back payment of the minimum wage to 11 former and current staff at two boarding schools in Hawke's Bay.

The Service and Food Workers Union says it will soon begin to talk to its members at boarding schools in Manawatu-Whanganui.

"We need to sort out the workers from the colleges that took the claim, Iona College and Woodford House," national secretary John Ryall said yesterday.

"We hope to have that sorted in about 10 days."

He was aware of four schools in the region with union members on their staff. They were Hato Paora College near Feilding, Turakina Maori Girls' College, Wanganui Girls' College and Wanganui Collegiate School.

The union would talk to members at the schools to determine whether they were required to stay on school premises overnight and what restrictions, if any, were placed on them.

"If they do, those people are entitled to be paid the minimum wage for having to remain on the premises during the night to be on call for any incidents which happen overnight," he said.

However, he could not say before then whether the union would have to pursue claims.

Turakina Maori Girls' College acting principal Kere Mihaere said the school was aware of the ruling and was still assessing the potential implications, although there were fears hostel fees could be affected.

"There's always going to be those fears," he said. "Our school is not a wealthy school so it always makes it very difficult, being a low-decile boarding school."

Turakina had 62 boarders, with two fulltime and two casual workers.

Mr Mihaere said it would be premature to talk about the implications of the ruling.

"We haven't gone into it in full depth at the moment," he said. However, the school had been talking to staff and "reassuring them that whatever the outcomes are, we will be supporting them".

Hato Paora College principal Debra Marshall-Lobb did not return calls yesterday.

Palmerston North Boys' High School rector David Bovey described the ruling as "an interesting situation", but said he was unable to comment until he had had a good look at the judgment and its implications.

It was too early to tell whether the ruling was cause for concern, but it was something boarding schools would have to look at.

Mr Ryall said the Employment Court case followed on from an earlier case involving disability support workers.

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In 2011, the Court of Appeal upheld an Employment Court decision that support workers on sleepover shifts must be paid the minimum wage. The Sleepover Wage Settlement Act came into force in October that year.

- Manawatu Standard

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