An ABC spokesman said the organisation had “worked proactively” to fix the payments, and affected staff would soon be contacted for backpay. He said the $23m had “been taken into account in our budget planning for the current financial year”.
On Sunday, the CPSU released its own report, interviewing 162 current and former employees, and examining the records of 63.
It found some ABC managers would roster flat-rate casual staff “almost exclusively” for weekends and holidays to save money.
“The CPSU believes that unrelenting budget pressures and subpar employment advice have given rise to a culture in some parts of the organisation where it is okay to treat casual employees as second-class workers,” it said.
“Our investigations show that some ABC managers fully exploited casual employees on loaded rates, rostering them almost exclusively for weekend and public holiday work because it was cheaper than using employees who were paid penalties.
“The managerial view that casual workers are a cheaper source of labour that can be used to improve ABC budget bottom lines is deeply embedded in some pockets of the organisation.”
The ABC’s budget was cut by $84m in 2018, adding to up to $254m in cuts since 2014.
Under the “loaded rates” arrangement, casual staff members received a higher base rate of pay, in lieu of receiving penalty rates.
Under Australian labour law, this is legal as long as the employee ends up “better off overall” than what they would have received under the award.
However, the union and the ABC found that employees who routinely worked weekends on “loaded rates”, could earn less than under the award.
Under the ABC’s enterprise bargaining agreement, casuals would have been entitled to time-and-a-half for working on Saturday, public holidays, or from midnight to dawn; and double time on Sunday.
The practice of flat rates was mostly in the news and television sections. Not all casuals at the ABC are paid loaded rates.
On Sunday, the CPSU report found the ABC had “at least ten significant opportunities” over six years to spot the errors. The union said it asked the ABC on 4 April 2016 to check if casual staff had been paid correctly.
The ABC denied this, and said a number of its findings had already been addressed.
“In November 2018, when the ABC first became aware that some casual employees may have been underpaid, we undertook to proactively address the matter, including advising the Fair Work Ombudsman of the situation,” a spokesman said.
“We have had a brief opportunity to review the CPSU report, which was sent to the ABC late on Friday. A number of the findings in the CPSU report have already been addressed through the ABC’s review, including the calculation of all relevant allowances, loadings and penalties, and superannuation entitlements.
“The ABC has always sought to communicate regularly and openly with the unions on this matter. There was never any specific concern raised by the unions about casual employees being underpaid during previous industrial agreement negotiations in 2016. If there had been such an allegation made, the ABC would have investigated it, as it did in November 2018.”
According to the CPSU report, 10% of the casual employees interviewed had been casuals for more than 20 years. A combined 48% had been casual for more than 10 years. And a combined 81% had been casuals for more than 5 years.
The union also found that the ABC had opened itself up to financial penalties due to the pay errors in breaching the Fair Work Act, and could have had to pay even greater penalties if the CPSU had not put it on notice.
According to the CPSU report, 10 events should have triggered checks of pay. These were: when the ABC and union negotiated new enterprise agreements in 2016 and 2019, when the ABC conducted a review of the ABC Award in 2016, when the casual loading was increased in November 2016, and when salary increases were processed every year, across the six years.