Nine Whakatane Hospital telephonists will receive almost four years' backpay after an Employment Relations Authority ruling.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board, which employs the workers, has also been ordered to reassess the telephonists' role and whether they should be on the same pay band as telephonists at Tauranga Hospital and administration staff in the Whakatane Hospital emergency department. The ruling was released last week.

In June 2012, Jaya Kingi, Grant Hughes, Karina Kau Kau, Hanna Akurangi, Robyn Boynton, Janette Hunt, Barbara Allison, Anne O'Halloran and Dayle Williams were told their positions had been lifted from grade C to grade D, under the collective agreement pay scales.

They were told the change would be backdated to August 1, 2009, when they first took steps to have the change made.


The authority ordered the back payments be made, then went on to consider the group's claim they should be on grade E. Their Tauranga counterparts were upgraded to grade E from March 2008, while the Whakatane emergency department administration staff were re-sized to grade E effective August 2008.

The ruling stated Ms Kingi became aware in May 2009 her emergency department colleagues had gone up a grade, so asked her then manager to support a re-sizing request for the telephonists. He refused, saying there were no significant changes in the role to support it.

The telephonists disagreed and met at the end of July 2009 to discuss the matter. There was some dispute around the job description, so it was not progressed until July 2011, when the telephonists applied directly to the board to be upgraded to grade E. That led to the upgrade to grade D a year later.

The ruling stated the telephonists relied on "notions of fairness" and an argument of "disparity of treatment" between them and Tauranga and other Whakatane administration staff.

The authority concluded it was not in its power to decide on grades, saying it was a matter of discretion. However, it ordered the telephonists be given an opportunity to respond to issues with the job description, and the job sizing committee to then reconsider its scoring of the role and the appropriate grade.