Hardware giant Bunnings rocked by staff complaints
ONE of the country's biggest retailers has defended a rostering system some workers and experts claim is "unfair".
For "some time", hardware chain Bunnings Warehouse has had a practice known as a "bank of hours" in place.
It involves sending staff members home during slow periods, which they are then expected to make up during busier times.
It means workers' hours are averaged out across the year - and also means they miss out on overtime pay.
And while the practice is entirely legal, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union wants it to be scrapped altogether amid staff complaints and claims workers were missing out on "thousands of dollars", the ABC reported.
Bunnings chief operating officer Debbie Poole defended the controversial system, but said it was now being reviewed.
"Having committed and engaged team members is important for the success of our business and we seek to provide market-leading entitlements that attract and reward the best team. This is a commitment that we take very seriously," Ms Poole told news.com.au.
"The bank of hours system has been in place for quite some time and it does provide benefits for our team members as well as our customers.
"We regularly review our processes, systems and entitlements to ensure we are a great place to work and provide a competitive range of benefits that meet the needs of our diverse workforce.
"We are currently reviewing the bank of hours system, including seeking feedback from our team members about the system and looking at alternatives or modifications that ensure our rostering processes benefit our team, customers and the business."
The ABC spoke to a number of Bunnings workers about the practice under the condition of anonymity.
They revealed they felt pressured to accept the system, which affected "family time", left them out of pocket with regards to transport to and from work and made arranging childcare more difficult.
"I'd much prefer to have the overtime rates that we have lost and standard hours frankly. I don't think it's fair," one worker told ABC reporters.
Shine Lawyers employment expert Christie Toy said it was clear Bunnings was not managing its rosters effectively.
"This is a very creative approach taken by Bunnings and it appears that the agreement has the impact of undermining the traditional 38-hour week by stealth," Ms Toy told news.com.au.
"If the company were managing their rosters properly this would not be happening. Full time staff should be the backbone of service delivery and casual workers should be moved in and out of the roster as work flow demands.
"There does need to be some flexibility but that is more for an hour or two here and there, not weeks at a time that undermines the working conditions of full-time staff."
Ms Toy said the 38-hour week was "the bedrock of the employment framework" of Australia.
"To see a company taking advantage of the legislation and doing something that is frankly against the spirit of the law is extremely disappointing," she said.
"This should be investigated and the practice stamped out. Unfortunately, the agreement has been made so now has legal force.
"All employees should take an active part in the process to pass these agreements, so take an interest and vote next time your enterprise agreement comes up for negotiation. Be mindful of what the employer is putting on the table in the bargaining process and what this will mean for you."
Ms Toy said a Coles agreement had recently been successfully challenged "for undercutting award entitlements".
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (SDA) national secretary Gerard Dwyer said the union had "consistently sought to abolish or significantly amend" the bank of system.
Mr Dwyer said the SDA was now hoping to restart bargaining with Bunnings on a new enterprise agreement and will be consulting with Bunnings staff on all pay and conditions, including the bank of hours matter.
"Bunnings employees will have ample opportunity to express their views as to what conditions should be included in their new agreement during consultation and every agreement must attract majority support from Bunnings employees before it is implemented," he said.