RSPCA New Kitten Nursery
RSPCA New Kitten Nursery

Probe into RSPCA wage dock claims

The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched an inquiry into the underpayment of staff by animal charity the RSPCA in NSW as it can be revealed the group has raked in millions in state government funding.

The Daily Telegraph revealed this week that the charity was warned two years ago that more than 1600 staff had been underpaid sums of "considerable magnitude" since 2009.

On Wednesday a Fair Work Ombudsman spokeswoman said: "The Fair Work Ombudsman will conduct inquiries in relation to this matter. Any workers with concerns about their pay should contact us directly."

The RSPCA’s kittern nursery at Yagoona. Picture: Toby Zerna
The RSPCA’s kittern nursery at Yagoona. Picture: Toby Zerna

The inquiry comes after it was revealed Premier Gladys Berejiklian's chief of staff Sarah Cruickshank was on the board of the RSPCA NSW for much of the decade that more than 1600 employees were underpaid.

Over that time the animal charity also received millions of dollars in government funding including almost $1 million in 2015 and $666,400 in 2016.

In January the charity began a $12 million upgrade of its Lagoona facilities largely funded by savings from the extension of its lease on Crown land, which is being charged at $481 a year instead of $195,000 until 2056.

Ms Cruickshank declined to comment. There is no suggestion she did anything wrong.

A spokesman for the RSPCA NSW said: "Our annual and financial reports are available on our website."

A payroll manager first raised the alarm that staff had been underpaid across a number of areas in 2017.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Dean Lewins
Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Dean Lewins

In May last year the RSPCA hired accountants PwC to examine its database and identify the size of the problem. It found 1604 employees were at risk of being underpaid.

The cost of trying to fix up the mess came to $220,000.

The RSPCA board, including Ms Cruickshank, resolved to tell staff and alert the Fair Work Ombudsman on February 20 but that is yet to happen.

After being contacted by the Telegraph the charity said just 19 past and 22 present staff had been underpaid by almost $123,000 and that repayments had commenced.

Sarah Cruickshank, chief of staff for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Andrew Clennell
Sarah Cruickshank, chief of staff for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Andrew Clennell