Schools alert to pay court case

South Canterbury boarding schools are watching the outcome of an employment court appeal that could cost them a combined $180,000.

Eleven Hawke's Bay boarding school staff members, at Iona College and Woodford House, were awarded an average of $30,000 in back pay.

It was determined that on-call staff members were owed at least the minimum wage for the hours spent in the hostels overnight, instead of the $25 per night they had received.

Timaru Girls' High School principal Sarah Davis said it was a complicated situation that the school was following closely.

"We are fortunate we have a matron who lives on site, so we don't think it will impact on us as much. However we will look and see what happens through the courts."

Craighead Board of Proprietors chairwoman Phillipa Guerin said she was not able to comment until the appeal had been through the courts. "Until a ruling is known, no-one is able to make a decision on what to do."

However Waihi School headmaster Allan Short said there were no implications for the preparatory school.

"We have known about the sleep-over rule for quite some time now. We are not in the same position that Iona and Woodford are in," Mr Short said.

Timaru Boys' High School director of boarding Ross Smith said the school could not comment as it was seeking legal clarification of its employment contracts.

The Service and Food Workers Union, which represents the hostel workers, was seeking the same measures for about 100 of its members spread across most of the country's 110 school hostels.

Union spokeswoman Jill Ovens said it could cost an extra $18,000 per hostel duty staff member each year.

That equates to a possible extra yearly cost of $180,000 to Timaru schools.

Mrs Ovens said schools had paid staff in allowances for overnight stays. The small payments were justified by stating that the staff were sleeping at the time.

"It doesn't matter if you are sleeping, you are still away from your families, and responsible for those children."

Mrs Ovens said although the union would keep an eye on the case, it would also continue with its own action of filing additional cases.

The Timaru Herald