Disability Groups Protest Payment Scheme Bill
26 August 2014 at 12:45 pm
Four national peak disability groups have joined forces with disability advocates calling on politicians from all parties to vote against a Bill set to extinguish the legal rights of up to 10,500 Australian workers with an intellectual disability.
In an open letter, jointly signed by more than 30 community disability organisations and the AED Legal Centre, the group called for leaders to reject the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Payment Scheme Bill.
The letter was sent to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as well as Labor and cross-bench Senators.
The BSWAT bill, which has been passed in the House of Representatives, asks workers who have been unlawfully underpaid for many years to accept a payment of just half of what they are owed, in exchange for giving away their legal right to participate in a class action and seek full backpay for work completed.
The group claims that some of these workers earn less than $1 an hour.
The Bill also contains a provision allowing the Secretary of the Department of Social Services to appoint nominees to accept a payment on behalf of workers without their consent, which the group has described as “alarming”.
National Council on Intellectual Disability spokesperson Paul Cain said that the Bill will not provide a remedy for the discrimination experienced by workers with an intellectual disability whose wages were assessed using the BSWAT.
The four peak disability advocacy organisations involved in the letter are: People with Disability Australia, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, the National Council on Intellectual Disability and Disability Advocacy Network Australia.
“All workers in Australia have the right to equal pay for work of equal value,” AED Legal Centre spokesperson Kairsty Wilson said.
“We are calling on our Parliamentary representatives to do everything they can to protect the social, economic and human rights of employees with intellectual disability.”
The Australian Greens have also flagged issues with the Bill.
"The Australian Greens have several key concerns with this Bill, and without amendments we are unlikely to support it," Senator Rachel Siewert said.
"I'm concerned with measures such as inadequate payments, being excluded from other legal action and appointments of nominees.
"It will mean that people who were inadequately paid under BSWAT will not be properly compensated.
"People who were subject to this inappropriate assessment tool deserve a better approach.”
A Senate Committee report on the Bill is expected to be released today.