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Nurses take action over inadequate breaks

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

Queensland Nurses’ Union secretary Beth Mohle

Nurses are taking Queensland Health to court amid claims they were not compensated for inadequate breaks between shifts.

The Queensland Nurses’ Union has filed a case in the Industrial Magistrates Court on behalf of four nurses and it’s revealed it is also considering another 92 applications, including 89 from Gold Coast nurses and midwives.

The union states the Queensland Health nurses and midwives failed to receive the full 10-hour break between shifts for up to six years, in breach of the state award.

QNU secretary Beth Mohle said the compensation owed to one nurse could be as high as $40,000 but most would be “much, much less than that”.

In one case, the union believes there were
80 alleged award breaches against one employee over five years and it has estimated compensation to be in the order of $17,000.

In another case, the union estimates the award was breached 30 times in the past three years which could result in that employee’s compensation reaching about $7500.

Ms Mohle said members first alerted the union around July or August last year and attempts to resolve the issue with Queensland Health had failed.

She said the nurses had not formally agreed to an eight hour break in a written agreement between them and their employer.

Ms Mohle said the award was there for the benefit of nurses and was also there to protect safe patient care.

“This is to make sure that our members aren’t fatigued between late and early shifts,” she said.

“These entitlements were never handed to anybody on a plate. What entitlements we have ever had has been fought for.

“It’s really important that nurses and midwives are aware of their rights and it is important that they claim them.”

Ms Mohle said it was a standard case being brought for breach of the award but she said most of the union’s disputes were resolved out of court.
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