Minister Fifield must reward genuine effort not failure

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Real Businesses Pay Real Wages. 

Minister Fifield must reward genuine effort not failure. 

The announcement by Minister Fifield of an additional $173 million to support employees get fair wages in Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) is welcomed as a step forward by Inclusion Australia.

The announcement, however, does not resolve serious concerns about the treatment of employees with intellectual disability, nor the ongoing viability of ADEs.

We already have a productivity based wage assessment

The announcement fails to recognise that a fair productivity based award wage tool already exists – i.e. Supported Wage System (SWS).

The SWS is recognised by the industrial relations system; the Australian Human Rights Commission, the High and Federal Courts, people with disability and their representative organisations.

The only group to refuse to acknowledge the SWS has been National Disability Services (NDS) representing ADEs. A refusal without valid reason.

The question must be asked; why is Minister Fifield supporting the position of NDS when the evidence and support for the SWS is substantial? When is the Minister going to stand up for people with disabilities and not service providers with a history of discriminating against people with disabilities?

Our support for funding assistance is based on implementing the SWS

Inclusion Australia has repeatedly recognised that fair wages determined by SWS would increase wage costs for ADEs, and that the Commonwealth should provide temporary funding to assist ADEs make the transition.

It is concerning however that the Minister has agreed to pay this cost without requiring that wages are determined by the SWS.

The “future” productivity wage assessment tool being proposed is “unknown”. The refusal to accept the SWS opens the door for ADEs to argue for a wage assessment tool that once again unfairly discounts award wages. A risk which is not necessary.

 

Where is the funding for transition to work and open employment support services?

The Minister in the Australian (21/8/14) says that the government is committed to finding ways to increase employment opportunities for people with disability in the open workforce.

Where is the funding to support this commitment. There are thousands of young people with intellectual disability that can, with the right support, move from school to the open labour market. But specialist transition-to-work and open employment support is severely limited.

Inclusion Australia has proposed, based on current Australian best practise) the development of a national system of transition to work and open employment support for people with significant intellectual disability. What is needed is a funding commitment to make this happen.

The Minister must not reward failure or incompetence

The Minister must address the genuine efforts being made by ADEs under the ’10 Year Vision for Supported Employment’. ADEs that pay their employees using SWS must not be disadvantaged for doing the right thing.

For decades the Australian government has attempted to make a number of ADEs businesses by ‘throwing money’ at them. Today’s funding announcement must not be another exercise of propping up unviable businesses.

Inclusion Australia does not wish ADEs to close. Where ADEs are viable businesses paying real wages they must be supported to continue to provide employment to people with intellectual disability. Where ADEs are not viable the Commonwealth government must consider the option of those services becoming day services so that they can continue  to support people with disability.

The Australian government’s ’10 Year Vision for Supported Employment’ is now in its 3rd year. Inclusion Australia calls on Minister Fifield to release a progress report to demonstrate that this new funding will build on progress.

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