QLD Health workers face deductions to redundancy packages due to bungled payroll system

Friday 28th September, 2012

Sacked Queensland Health workers face a double whammy, with the troubled department set to dip into their pockets as they leave.

An internal information sheet obtained by The Courier-Mail shows QH plans to deduct overpayments doled out by its bungled payroll system from redundancy packages.

The move is likely to spark further outrage among unions and the long-suffering health workforce, which has repeatedly argued overpayment calculations are incorrect.

More than one-in-two of the state's 85,000 health workers have been overpaid since the faulty system went live in 2010.

That means hundreds of the 2754 health workers set for the axe could have their redundancies eaten away by overpayment deductions.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg's spokesman insisted workers who disputed alleged overpayments would be given a case manager and the chance to work through available evidence before anything was finalised.

But in cases where the state believed it had ample evidence to justify the debt and the worker continued to disagree after mediation, QH would "stand by the case manager's decision", he said.

The Government granted itself the legal power to automatically claw back overpayments by changing the state's Industrial Relations Act in July.

But that applies only to money mistakenly doled out after the law change, and unions warned automatically deducting historical overpayments would likely breach the Act.

Much of the furore centres around overpayments made in the months after the system's botched 2010 introduction, when record-keeping was notoriously lax or unreliable.

"There is no confidence whatsoever that the calculations would be correct in any way, shape or form," Queensland Nurses' Union secretary Beth Mohle said.

"This is just another blow to workers already reeling from the attacks on their job security."

It is understood the Government could be forced to take workers to court if it cannot secure written agreement from staff to recover historical debts.

But Mr Springborg's spokesman insisted that was unlikely as only a "small number" of cases dated back to the system's introduction and later overpayments could more easily be proven.

Together union assistant secretary Julie Bignell feared massive bottlenecks as outgoing staff attempted to negotiate with the Government.

"There's going to be a lot of redundancies being processed at a time when they are cutting payroll staff," she said.

QH confirmed it had only 40 case workers plus another 20 payroll staff dedicated to processing the expected 2754 redundancies.