Court Ruling A Sweet Win For Shift Workers

Published August 22, 2019 (last updated July 17, 2020) -

A Federal Court ruling could have an impact on employees who work long shifts all around Australia, after two Cadbury workers won their case of how their sick leave should be calculated.

The National Employment Standards, under which all workers in Australia are covered, requires all full-time employees to receive 10 days of personal leave per year.

Mondelez, owner of chocolatier Cadbury, took two Tasmanian workers and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) to court over sick leave. Mondelez, according to the ABC, were seeking a ruling that personal leave days could be paid at 7.6 hours per day.

On the other hand, the employees argued that as they worked 12-hour shifts, they should have their personal leave at 12 hours per day.

In a split decision, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the workers.

The ruling sets a precedent that could potentially alter how sick leave is calculated for shift workers.

“It’s a great decision by the Federal Court. It’s great for the Cadbury workers who work extended hours, but obviously it’s got ramifications broader than that around Australia,” AMWU Tasmanian secretary John Short said.

Brendan McCormack, one of the workers whose sick leave cases where used as part of the court case, said he hoped the court’s ruling would flow onto other industries.

“Normally these sort of things don’t come our way but, yes, I think a bit of common sense came through,” McCormack said, who also added that there were cheers on the factory floor when the decision was announced.

“We work long hours and if you’re sick on one of your work days then you shouldn’t be penalised.

“Hopefully it follows on through everywhere else. Good old little Tassie, the mouse that roared — we’ve done well.”

Mondelez said in a statement that it would consider the decision before deciding how to proceed.

“Manufacturing is highly competitive and it is imperative manufacturing employers in Australia maintain and continuously improve their operations here to help secure the future of manufacturing,” the statement said.

“An EA [enterprise agreement] with fair working conditions is key to helping achieve that.”

The Australian Government has also announced it is looking at the decision. The Federal Government had intervened in the case, and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the Government would look into the rationale for the court’s ruling.

“While a review of the judgement and its broader implications is undertaken, employers should review their own payroll systems in light of the decision,” Porter said.

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