Public servants who fought bushfires left waiting for payment

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday February 19, 2020

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Victorian public servants who recently helped fight fires have not yet been paid the entitlements earned over summer due to a “significant number of timesheets being processed”.

The employees expect they will not receive the funds for several months.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning reportedly said there had been a hold up with processing payments, but assured workers — including Forest Fire Management Victoria employees — that they would be paid.

“[Forest Fire Management Victoria] staff who have worked on the bushfires will be paid their allowances and overtime as required under their workplace agreement,” a departmental spokesperson told The Age.

“Given the exceptionally busy season, with staff working multiple deployments and rotations, there are a significant number of timesheets being processed, which has resulted in some delays in processing payments. We are working hard to process outstanding payments as quickly as possible and thank staff for their patience.”

The Victorian branch of the Community and Public Sector Union has condemned the mishap.

“Payment delays are unacceptable when these workers have spent their summer fighting fires and protecting Victorians,” CPSU state secretary Karen Batt said.

“Many are based in Gippsland and have lost homes and personal belongings to fire. It’s a straightforward computer-based payroll and the data providing the pay boost should have been pre-organised and pre-loaded.”

Batt argued cuts to the Victorian Public Service meant departments “simply don’t have enough staff” to process the payments, and acknowledged Treasurer Tim Pallas’ plans to shave $4 billion from the state budget, which would mostly come from the public service.

“You can imagine how bad it’s going to end up once Treasury cuts $4 billion. There won’t be anyone employed to pay the workforce. God forbid if MP’s were to miss being paid their allowances and higher duties,” she said.

The union noted that some employees owed money from the 2018-2019 fire season were not paid until May — months after the fires had ended.

This fire season has seen more than 3500 state public servants help fight fires and assist with rescue and recovery efforts. Three have died during the bushfires.

The CPSU last month requested a good faith payment be made to members as “many are involved fighting bushfires and or assisting communities affected including our precious fauna”.


READ MORE: Public sector union requests payment for firefighting members, Fair Work boss brought in to negotiate


 

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