Sleepover staff given 'benefits'

By Anna Ferrick

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Woodford House matrons fighting in court for sleepover pay were given flats on site and provided with meals, internet, and phone access as part of their employment, a court has heard.

Current and former boarding staff from Woodford House and Iona College are fighting to be paid minimum wage for sleepovers they were required to do as part of their jobs as house matrons at the schools.

Yesterday, Woodford House principal Jacqueline Barron took the stand at the Employment Court in Hastings.

She said the house matrons were given flats on site as part of their employment and were provided with meals. "These flats could be personalised and used when they were both on- and off-duty. It was part of the benefits which also included use of a phone, internet and TV."

Ms Barron said these were considered to be remunerative benefits for carrying out the job. She said they were in their flats between 11pm and 6.30am and were permitted to do whatever they liked during this time.

Following an approach from the Food and Service Workers Union the school had introduced a $20 payment per sleepover as of February 2009.

She said while matrons did get called out on occasion, on the whole there were few issues.

"There were very few incidents, it was mainly about supporting girls before they went to bed."

Former deputy principal Fiona Green also took the stand.

Ms Green said house matrons were only required to attend to incidents that were minor in nature. She said the boarding manager, who also lived on site, was to be contacted for more serious incidents that required more than 30 minutes attention in the hours of 11pm to 6.30am.

She said house matrons were not the sole adults in the house as there were often senior girls in the houses who had some level of responsibility.

House matrons were part of a team who would share in the comforting of girls in the night, and share in the responsibility for the girls.

Ms Green also lived on site during her time at Woodford House and accepted the house matrons played an important role as part of a larger team.

One staff member, Barbara Finlay, 79, worked as a house mistress at the school between 2005 and 2011. She told the court she would work between five and six days a week and was in charge of about 48 girls aged between 15 and 17.

She said her day began at 2.45pm and ran through till 11pm. From 11pm until 6.30am she slept over at the school before commencing work again at 6.30am and finishing at 8.30am. She was working up to 61 hours a week with an extra 37 hours of sleepovers on top of that.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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