Tuesday 09 Apr 2024

The Department of Justice has been fined $15,000 following legal action taken by the WA Prison Officers’ Union (WAPOU).

WAPOU launched legal action against the Department after a prison officer was denied the Public Holiday rate in August last year, despite this being an entitlement within the prison officers’ industrial agreement.

The Department was ordered to pay the affected prison officer the underpayment amount and to pay WAPOU $15,000 as a penalty for the breach.

In his findings, the magistrate stated that he had previously imposed a caution against the Department for a similar case and that a financial penalty should now be imposed.

WAPOU State Secretary Andy Smith said it was a fantastic outcome that showed breaches of the industrial agreement would be taken seriously.

“The Department has been eroding prison officers’ entitlements over the past four years by illegally reinterpreting the industrial agreement to the point that someone has not been paid the wage they are entitled to,” Mr Smith said.

“This amounts to wage theft, which cannot be allowed to go unnoticed and unpunished.

“We are thrilled that the magistrate has not only forced the Department to pay back what it owes, but has also imposed a financial penalty as punishment for this illegal and unethical behaviour. However, we know that this is just one case of many.”

Mr Smith said while the judgment was good news, breaches of the industrial agreement should not be occurring in the first place. 

“For several years now there has been a clear indication that the Department is not willing to pay prison officers what they are worth," he said.

“By taking away entitlements and underpaying prison officers, the Department is making the job so unattractive that not only can it not recruit new prison officers, it also cannot stop people leaving. This is exacerbating the understaffing crisis plaguing our prisons and making the job even more dangerous and stressful for the prison officers who remain.

“I urge the Department and the State Government to end the attack on our members’ rights and to start treating them with the respect they deserve.”

To read the magistrate's decision click here: