Disability Wage Row
4 May 2015 at 11:53 am
Disability advocates say they were not consulted on an Australian Human Rights Commission decision to grant disability enterprises an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act.
Following an application from the Federal Government, the Commission announced that Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) using the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) would receive temporary exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act.
President of People With Disability Australia (PWDA), Craig Wallace, said a group of workers were now being “denied the benefit of a clear judgement in their favour and their work continues to be undervalued in a discriminatory manner”.
“PWDA is very disappointed that the Australian Human Rights Commission has granted the temporary exemption without any notice or opportunity for input from the disability advocates representing employees working in Australian Disability Enterprises (formerly known as sheltered workshops),” Wallace said.
“Disability advocacy groups have been working cooperatively in good faith with the Government and ADEs through the Fair Work Commission to develop a fairer wage system for employees working in ADEs.
“The Government has provided $173 million to help develop a new wage tool to assist ADEs with the transition costs to a fairer wage system. People working in Australian Disability Enterprises deserve real wages for real work now – not in one year’s time. There has been a fight going on for wage justice for several years now.
“We need to look at the details of this decision and the possible impact it will have on current efforts to move workers to a fairer wage system before we decide what actions we will take next.”
Assistant Social Services Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield, countered Wallace’s claims, saying the decision meant that there would be no issues with the payment of wages to supported employees in Australian Disability Enterprises who have already been assessed under BSWAT for four months as an interim measure, or until a decision is made on the Government’s application for a temporary 12-month exemption.
“This is a welcome provisional step from the AHRC, ensuring that people with disability employed in ADEs that used the BSWAT can continue their employment with confidence they their employer is operating within the law,” Senator Fifield said.
“In 2013 the Department of Social Services applied to the AHRC for a three-year exemption for BSWAT from the Disability Discrimination Act. Disappointingly, the Commission only granted a twelve month exemption which expired yesterday.
“The full three-year exemption would have provided enough time for the development of a new wage assessment tool for ADEs to use in place of BSWAT, and would have allowed time for them to transition their workforce to the new tool.”
Fifield said the Government’s application for another twelve-month extension, which the AHRC is currently considering, would allow for the completion of the development of the new wage assessment tool.
“Work on developing the new tool is underway, in consultation with relevant stakeholders and is being led by the Fair Work Commission,” he said.
“The Government’s priority is ensuring continuity of employment support for people with disability working in Australian Disability Enterprises.”