The Victorian Ambulance Union Incorporated (VAU) has been in discussions with Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) after the VAU revealed that an error in the EMPLive clock on/off system has resulted in underpayments for many members.

The Victorian Ambulance Union Incorporated (VAU) has been in discussions with Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) after the VAU revealed that an error in the EMPLive clock on/off system has resulted in underpayments for many members.

There were two errors identified. The first was that the system has been programmed to ignore incidental overtime when it is less than 15 minutes and ‘turn the clock back’ to the ordinary finish time for that shift. The second was that overtime beyond 15 minutes was rounded to the nearest 5 minute increment, which meant in some cases it was rounded down by 1 or 2 minutes.

How did this happen?

It is unclear when this system was implemented. It is believed to have originated when RFDS first started MPC but this is uncertain. The VAU raised the underpayment with RFDS when one of our members first brought it to our attention.

Initial explanations from RFDS included that crews are allowed to leave early when they have cleared their last case and completed clean up at branch, and that this off-sets any small amounts of overtime that EMPLive has not recorded as OT. The VAU have explained to RFDS that the vast majority of staff members arrive early for their shift to allow adequate time to thoroughly check their vehicle prior to heading out on the road. This is done in unpaid time and more than off-sets the occasions when crews are allowed to leave early. For this reason, the VAU does not accept the premise that leaving work early, on occasions, in any way justifies the denial of overtime payments, however small.

What happens now?

Once the VAU brought this matter to their attention, RFDS responded by recognising that they will need to backpay all staff who are affected by the EMPLive system. This will include staff who no longer work for RFDS. Under the Fair Work Act, RFDS are compelled to repay affected staff members back as far as six years.

Discussions between RFDS, the VAU and the ANMF have centred around the difficulty of ascertaining the exact debt to every staff member, past and present, for the last six years. A complete audit of all staff members’ wages over a six-year period is impractical and would likely take months to complete. In particular, it would require the manual input of timesheets for a period of about three years. While the VAU recognise that RFDS is obliged to repay any underpaid amount, we also recognise that a co-operative approach with RFDS to fix this matter is more likely to lead to a quick and effective resolution for our members.

RFDS have reviewed their payroll data in an effort to get a broad impression of the magnitude of the problem and calculate an averaged amount which would satisfy the past debt to staff while avoiding, where possible, a full audit for every individual. The data provided by RFDS indicates that during the period 2020-2023, each affected employee was underpaid around 45 minutes of overtime per year. In order to resolve the issue, RFDS is offering to pay each affected employee 60 minutes of overtime, for each year of service during the relevant period, calculated on their current salary. RFDS have emailed employees with an explanation of the problem and their proposed solution.

The VAU believes that for the vast majority of affected employees, the proposed payment will exceed the amount that would be calculated if an audit was completed. The ANMF has also endorsed this resolution for its members.

Can I ask for a complete audit of my wages if I believe that the agreed ‘average’ does not adequately reflect my losses?

Yes. The VAU have ensured that RFDS understand that individuals may disagree with the ‘averaged’ figures and seek to have their wages fully audited. RFDS have accepted this and will undertake a full audit for an individual employee in those cases.

Members should understand that a full audit, if it were carried out, may reveal that an individual is owed less than offered in the ‘averaged’ amount. In this instance, the audit will result in both a delay of payment for that individual and also a reduction in their final back-pay (from the initial offer). For this reason, the VAU recommend that members accept the averaged amount in instances where they feel that the proposed amount is probably close to correct (in their case). The VAU also encourage members to request a full audit when this is not true, in their belief.

What about interest?

RFDS have recognised that interest is payable on the amounts that are owed. Again, it is impractical to calculate the exact interest owing on an individual basis and would lead to huge delays in settling the matter. RFDS have proposed that payments to all staff members be paid at 2024 rates for the level applicable to their current classification, t even when applied to lost wages from five or six years ago. The VAU believe that this will adequately compensate members for lost interest. In the case of past employees, the payments will be based on rates that would now apply to that individual if they were still employed at RFDS.

I worked for RFDS a while back but have since left. Will I receive backpay?

Yes. RFDS will contact all staff who have worked for MPC at any stage over the past six years. If you are one of those people you can expect to hear from RFDS very soon. If you do not hear from them, the VAU recommend emailing People and Culture at RFDS and CC Bruce Fine as detailed below.

If you wish to call the VAU to discuss specifics of your situation, we encourage you to email or phone your NEPT Organisers:

Bruce Fine at [email protected] or on 0480 194 711 

Kerry McLean at [email protected] or on 0480 194 783

In solidarity