Monday, 23 June 2014

Not happy, Mr. Shorten!

In 2003 The Howard Government introduced the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) which determines the level of wages paid to people with disabilities who are employed in Commonwealth-funded Australian Disability Enterprises [ADEs].

In September 2013 the Dept. of Social Security sought an exemption from the Australian Human Rights Commission to continue to use the BSWAT. A limited  exemption for a twelve month period was granted, subject to provisions.

According to the Commission an estimated 10,000 individuals with an intellectual disability have their wages assessed under the BSWAT scheme.

In January 2014 ABC News reported that the Abbott Government announced that it would make a one-off payment to intellectually disabled workers who had been unfairly paid - but only if they were not involved in the discrimination class action which was scheduled for a first directions hearing in February.

On 10 May 2014 the Abbott Government was refused leave to appeal the Federal Court judgment.

On 17 June 2014 the Abbott Government’s Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014 was passed in the House of Representatives with the support of the Opposition. This bill offers for a limited period to enter into individual agreements to pay half of the lost wages owed to any affected ADE worker with an intellectual disability.

Lawyers running a class action on behalf of supported employees with intellectual disabilities have described this legislation as "an outrageous abuse of power".

Given that ADEs pay workers with an intellectual disability as little as $0.33 per hour and given that it appears the government bill locks out any of 10,000 workers taking part in the class action from receiving the half of lost wages ‘offer’ and, will see the future wages of those workers (who receive compensation for past wage discrimination if the class action is successful) cut by about half, I am amazed that Federal Labor would endorse this legislation.

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