Médecins Sans Frontières is an international medical humanitarian organisation. We provide free medical care to millions of people in more than 70 countries around the world. This humanitarian assistance is made possible by the work of our field workers including many from Australia and New Zealand. Each year, MSF Australia sends around 200 Australians and New Zealanders on overseas field assignments to provide medical-humanitarian aid.
MSF field staff are paid according to an international MSF remuneration model, and provided other benefits including accommodation, local per diem, medical care, paid leave and superannuation. Salaries are modest so that MSF can dedicate maximum resources to vulnerable populations in the countries where we run humanitarian projects. MSF Australia has always been clear and transparent with our field workers about the amount of remuneration they receive.
MSF Australia has undertaken a review of field worker salaries in relation to Australia’s employment laws. During this review, MSF has acknowledged that there is uncertainty about whether our field staff working overseas are covered by Australian employment laws, including the national minimum wage (Australian minimum wage). The review did, however, show that when not accounting for accommodation, local per diem, medical care and superannuation, some of our field staff were paid below the Australian minimum wage, if it applied to them. Despite the uncertainty regarding the application of Australian employment laws to the field workers, we have decided to increase our base salary for our field staff so that it is in line with the Australian minimum wage.
Up to 405 field staff are affected by this retrospective salary change for a period of six years, from 1 July 2014. They will be paid an average of AU$6,193, including interest and superannuation. This change does not affect office staff.
MSF Australia has begun contacting all affected field staff to advise them of this situation and the measures we have in place to address it, such as making a payment to bridge the gap between what they’ve received and the Australian minimum wage. MSF Australia has also briefed the Fair Work Ombudsman on these matters, and since December 2019 all field staff have been paid at least the Australian minimum wage.
“Our field staff deliver humanitarian aid in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. As an employer we value them immensely and hope that by making this adjustment we can honour their commitment to our lifesaving work,” said Jennifer Tierney, Executive Director of MSF Australia.
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