Disability Wage Assessment Legislation Passes
Tuesday, 16th June 2015 at 12:10 pm
The Federal Government’s controversial disability wage assessment legislation, the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Bill has passed the Senate but has drawn strong criticism from the disability sector and opposition parties.
The BSWAT legislation first passed the House of Representatives on 17 June 2014 but was voted down in the Senate on 24 November 2014 before being re-introduced with Government amendments this month.
The recommitted legislation establishes a payment scheme for supported employees with intellectual impairment in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE).
Not for Profit peak body, People with Disability described the passing of the legislation as disappointing and a lost opportunity to transform ADEs as social ventures.
PWD spokesperson Craig Wallace said the new law was also a retrograde step that denied access to full wage entitlements for people with disability.
Shadow Labor Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin said the legislation will deny people with intellectual disability the right to pursue back pay against the Commonwealth through the courts.
“The Government’s Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Bill will see people with disability prevented from exercising their right to pursue to back pay if they choose to be part of the Government’s Scheme,” Macklin said.
Labor’s amendments to the Bill were voted down.
“These would have enabled those people who choose to participate in the Government’s BSWAT scheme to also continue to participate in a class action that protects their common law rights.But the Government seems determined to rob vulnerable Australians of their legal rights.”
The BSWAT is one of several different tools used to assess the wages of people who work in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE’s). The BSWAT was found to be discriminatory against people with intellectual disability by both the Federal and High Courts of Australia.
The Australian Greens claims the the recommitted BSWAT Bill still fails to address fundamental discrimination against people with disability.
"People with Disability were substantially underpaid under this tool. This Bill means those affected will only be paid 50 per cent of the wages they are owed, in accepting this they must now waive legal rights to pursue compensation through the courts before accessing the payment,” Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.
"The clear message from the people with disabilities and peak disability organisations was that this Bill should not have passed the Senate, it is such a shame that people with disability affected now have to choose between a lump sum or class action.
“Amendments put by the ALP meant those affected could receive the lump sum then pursue the remainder in a class action were supported by the Australian Greens, it is disappointing these amendments did not get up.
“This Bill continues the unfairness of the BSWAT in that people affected will be inadequately compensated for loss of wages. We need stronger measures to support people with disability in the workforce and make sure that they are paid a wage they deserve.”