Real Businesses Pay Real Wages

Real Businesses Pay Real Wages – Wake Up! It’s a reality!

A response to Minister Mitch Fifield

Minister Fifield said in his article, Idealism threatens jobs for the disabled, that “accusations that ADEs exploit people with disability is unfair”.

The Federal and High Courts of Australia ruled that 10,000 employees with intellectual disability were disadvantaged by the use of the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT). What is unfair is the Commonwealth’s refusal to accept responsibility for this unfairness and pay fair compensation.

  • There are some ADEs that do pay employees with intellectual disability fair wages based on the Supported Wages System (SWS), and are not exploiting people with disability. 
  • There are employers in the open labour market that employ people with intellectual disability and pay full award wages or wages based on the SWS.
  • Fair wages for people with intellectual disability is a right and a reality. Disability discrimination is unlawful.
  • If some ADEs can pay fair wages based on the SWS and be viable, why can not all ADEs pay fair wages?
  • What is it about the ‘business structure’ of ADEs that they are unable or unwilling to pay fair wages?
  • If there are ADEs paying employees a fair wage using the SWS, why is there a need to develop a new system?

These are the questions that Minister Fifield fails to address in his article.

The application to the AHRC for an exemption to continue to use the unlawful BSWAT was made by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth held consultations with people with disabilities, ADEs, and the advocacy sector. The AHRC also provided several months for people to provide submissions.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission asked for evidence that its decision would make ADEs unviable the AHRC reported that the evidence provided was limited and anecdotal. They made a reasonable determination that the Commonwealth and ADEs should change within a year.

Minister Andrews says that people with disability with capacity should work and reduce their dependence on the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Yet Minister Fifield says that we should see the pension as compensation for work.  Does this mean that the Minister is promoting ADEs as a “work for the pension” scheme? Is not dignity in work all about being paid fairly for work done? How can work be dignified if you are being discriminated?

There are people with disability in ADEs getting real wages, getting a reduced DSP, paying tax and accruing superannuation.

There are people with significant intellectual disability working in open employment on real wages, getting a reduced DSP, paying tax and accruing superannuation.

Minister Fifield,  not for the first time states, “there will always be some people with disability who won’t be able to participate in the open workforce”, and yet he also states, “we must stop limiting people by placing low expectations on them”.

The evidence is very clear that people with significant disability intellectual disability can work in jobs that pay real wages. Statements that place low expectations on the work outcomes for people with intellectual disability are discriminatory and at odds with the aims of Government policy and the NDIS.

The Coalition Government’s “commitment to increasing employment for people with disability in the open workforce” is fine rhetoric but where is the action? Inclusion Australia has set out a detailed submission to the Commonwealth government, based on current Australian best practice, on how to build such a system of support. We know what helps to get people with significant disability into the open workforce. Why is the Commonwealth not contracting for best practice?

Inclusion Australia wants the discrimination to stop (we do not want ADEs to close). We have a fair wage assessment tool in the SWS. We have also proposed that the Commonwealth fund ADEs to assist in making the transition to fair award wages using the SWS. Where transformation is not possible Minister Fifield must support ADEs to become community participation programs and work with real businesses to ensure that individuals with significant disability have real employment support options in the future.

Mark Pattison

Executive Director, Inclusion Australia

0407 406 647

Leave a Reply