The Finance Sector Union (FSU) has launched a test case in the Federal Court against the National Australia Bank (NAB) over excessive, unsafe and unreasonable hours staff are required to work in contravention of the Fair Work Act.
A claim filed with the Federal Court details the case against the NAB on behalf of four managers who have been required to work unreasonable unpaid hours over several years.
FSU National Secretary Julia Angrisano said while this case will focus on the experiences of four NAB employees, it has wider ramifications as the bank has an entrenched culture of forcing staff to work excessive, unreasonable and unsafe hours.
“This case centres on four managers whose working hours are well in excess of what most workers would endure,” Ms Angrisano said.
“While they are nominally employed to work 38 hours a week, their actual hours can range between 10 and 16 hours a day, every day of the week, in order to meet excessive workload demands. And many NAB managers have to do unpaid work on weekends to complete assigned tasks or risk being sacked.”
“On occasions, one of the mangers whose work hours will be examined, is required to work from 9am to midnight, and then turn up to work on time the next day.”
“These relentless long work days are affecting the health of the managers, leading to them suffering stress, anxiety, fatigue and exhaustion. The negative health impacts of long hours will be examined in this case.”
“The excessive hours are having a profound impact on the lives of our members, affecting their health, their relationships, the time available to spend with their families and their overall quality of life.”
Ms Angrisano said this is a serious case of contraventions of Section 62 of the Fair Work Act. The FSU says NAB knowingly contravened the Act and its conduct constituting the contravention was part of a systematic pattern of conduct relating to one or more other persons.
“It is clear to us that NAB operates with insufficient staff. To cover the workload, existing staff are directed to pick up the extra work and forced to work longer hours to meet unrealistic deadlines.”
“This is a systemic cultural issue of deliberate understaffing and the only way to remedy that is to hire more people. Big banks have reaped the benefit of implementing a culture that encourages and expects workers to perform high levels of unpaid work as a career development tool and a way to demonstrate their commitment to the company.”
“Working hard should not be equated with working excessive, unreasonable, unpaid hours.”
“We will be asking the Federal Court to award compensation to the affected managers and impose substantial penalties on the NAB.”
“We say this is another form of wage theft and the NAB needs to make urgent reforms to its work practises to bring it into line with community expectations.”
“If we win this case, the FSU will be demanding the bank compensate up to ten thousand staff who are also subject to similar levels of excessive unpaid work.”
“We hope the case will set a benchmark for what constitutes ‘reasonable additional hours’ and prevents the banks from being allowed to exploit staff by demanding they work excessive unpaid hours.”
Group 1 and 2 employees have an entitlement to paid overtime but managers employed as Group 3s and 4s do not. While their contracts specify additional hours are covered by higher rates of pay, the FSU believes these employees have been forced to work unreasonable and unsafe additional hours because of a dangerous culture at the NAB.
The case will examine the experience of two male business banking managers, a male operations manager and a female senior IT consultant working for the NAB and its subsidiary, MLC.
“Excessive unpaid hours are a feature of the financial services sector and not limited to the NAB,” Ms Angrisano said.
“This case is just the start. We know the culture of the big banks exploits workers and we will be going after them as well.”
Ms Angrisano said the appalling treatment of NAB staff was unmasked by a report compiled by the FSU in late 2021.
The “Working For Nothing” Report can be accessed here.
Media contact John Hill 0412 197 079