Workers with Disability Win Pay Fight Against Government
Monday, 21st December 2015 at 11:01 am
The Federal Government has settled a long-standing feud between disabled employees who were paid as little as $1 an hour, agreeing to back pay them 70 per cent of the money they were owed.
Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said legislation would be introduced to the parliament that would see increased payments to people with disability under the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Payment Scheme.
The BSWAT was previously used to assess the competency and productivity of supported employees in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) – previously called sheltered workshops – to determine their wages.
In December 2012, a Federal Court decision found the way the BSWAT assessed wages for people in ADEs constituted discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Porter said the government had been in mediation with legal representatives of disabled employees.
“The Applicant in the class action has now agreed to settle the class action, on behalf of himself and the other group members, on the basis that the BSWAT Payment Scheme payments are calculated at 70 per cent of alleged lost wages, rather than the current 50 per cent,” Porter said.
“The Government will introduce legislation to this effect, which would lead to the Commonwealth providing payments directly to supported employees.”
A class action on behalf of a limited group of intellectually disabled supported employees who had their wages assessed under the BSWAT is still before the Federal Court of Australia.
People With Disability Australia’s Manager of Employment and Wage Justice, Samantha French, welcomed the decision, hailing it as a win for employees with disability.
"We would have preferred the Government came to the table a lot sooner, rather than drag this through the courts, but we are pleased to have an outcome which sees wage justice for these employees,” French said.
"While these employees will only get 70 per cent of their backpay, this is better than the 50 per cent the Government was previously offering, and it will be tax free. This money will also not affect Centrelink payments or concessions.”
This decision has no financial impact on ADEs, with the Government providing the funds for the backpay.
"PWDA would like all ADEs to start setting wages using fair wage assessment tools that do not discriminate on the basis of a person’s disability,” French said.