Opinion: Why is SkyCity harvesting workers sick leave

It seems clear that SkyCity is claiming the full special leave subsidy for workers sick with Covid whist forcing them to use up all their available sick leave as well.

Unite Union wrote to SkyCity’s HR team on January 25 seeking an assurance that sick leave would not be deducted from workers in light of the “impending widespread Omicron infections”:

We were aware that a special leave subsidy was available for those with Covid and for close contacts. We assumed the company would apply for this subsidy for both categories. We wanted an assurance that they wouldn’t force workers to use their sick leave first for those with Covid.
“Can you assure us that all leave legally available from the government will be accessed before workers are expected to use their own sick leave. We’re looking for agreement that if a worker has to isolate or has Covid that their sick leave won’t be used (sick leave can’t be used for isolation anyway). In particular, that the sick leave won’t be used in anticipation of the payment and restored afterwards.”
We were assuming sick leave would be “restored” if used once the subsidy was received. That has proved a naive hope.
What we have since realised is that they have been claiming the subsidy for those sick with Covid whilst also forcing them to use up as much of the sick leave that they have available as possible.
Any sick leave, lieu days or annual leave count as liabilities on a company’s accounts. Any reduction in liabilities boosts potential profit.
Most SkyCity staff had their sick leave increased to ten days as a consequence of the recent law change. This significantly increased the liabilities of the company. If they can force the worker to use up all their sick leave whilst also claiming the subsidy it is a double win win for the company.
Staff with Covid have naturally been stressed out by the company treating them differently to close contacts and forcing them to use up their sick leave. No explanation was being offered as to why this was  happening.
The company claimed in an email to Unite that the leave payments “only partially cover the financial impact of an employee who is unable to work due to being sick with COVID and SkyCity feels that it is entirely reasonable that employees use their existing sick leave allocations first before Compassionate leave is provided.”
The is disingenuous and simply not true for most workers at SkyCity..
I wrote to the company again on March 7 pointing out that the the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is paid at the rate of:
– $600.00 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week.
– $359 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.
I pointed out that the company will be “profiting from the subsidy for any part-time worker whose hours are 18 or less a week or less. And the subsidy will cover the full costs of any worker working up to 30 hours a week on the base rate. The only workers they aren’t getting a full cost recovery for are those working 30-40 hours a week.
I suggested that the company could “use the profit from the part-time workers to subsidise the full-time workers. We see no reason for any sick leave to be taken from your staff. All of it should be reinstated.”
Making workers use us their sick leave entitlements whist claiming a subsidy that covers virtually their full costs, is simply the harvesting of workers sick leave entitlement to enrich the already rich shareholders.

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