Fair Work to decide if you can be sacked for a nap on your unpaid break
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Fair Work to decide if you can be sacked for a nap on your unpaid break

Two Canberra Hospital cleaners sacked for taking a nap on their unpaid break have taken their case to the Fair Work Commission after the contractor involved refused to back down.

Union United Voice referred the case for arbitration with the commission after conciliation attempts failed.

Tshering and Sonam, cleaners at the Canberra hospital, lost their jobs for falling asleep at 4am during a designated unpaid break.

Tshering and Sonam, cleaners at the Canberra hospital, lost their jobs for falling asleep at 4am during a designated unpaid break. Credit:Karleen Minney.

The permanent workers, Tshering and Sonam, fell asleep in the day surgery waiting area - while all theatres were closed - about 4am during their designated unpaid break, which contractor ISS labelled a "serious breach" of the company's code of conduct.

The women are desperate to be reinstated to their jobs, which are their only means of survival in Australia.

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Canberra Health Services did not answer a number of questions about the sacking, including if it agreed with the women's dismissal and if it had spoken to the contractor.

It also did not answer if it had investigated the incident itself, saying it was inappropriate to comment as the case was before the Fair Work Commission.

It previously refused to comment saying cleaning employment issues were matters for the contractor.

A spokeswoman did, however, say Canberra Hospital employees were allowed to take a nap on their breaks.

Contractor ISS did not answer questions about the matter or clarify its version of events, also saying it was because the case was before the Fair Work Commission.

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The women wrote to ISS after the incident begging to keep their jobs and apologising for falling asleep.

But ISS found it was a severe breach of its code of conduct and, despite the women's pleas, they were fired.

Union United Voice is representing the women, and said the matter had been referred for arbitration after conciliation attempts through the commission failed.

The women have asked for their jobs to be reinstated or to be given financial compensation.

United Voice ACT branch secretary Lyndal Ryan said she was surprised at the contractor's hardline approach.

Ms Ryan said she looked forward to the matter going to hearing as it meant the actions of ISS could not be swept under the carpet.

"Let's have it and see if the commissioner thinks it's OK to sleep on your break," she said.

"If the commissioner thinks you can't that will be interesting news to every worker in the country.

"Let's see what the commissioner thinks you can do in your own time."

Daniella White is a reporter for The Canberra Times with a special focus on health issues

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