Workers’ jobs not at risk, says Western District Employment Access

WESTERN District Employment Access has assured workers that no jobs will be lost after a Human Rights Commission decision to increase wages for people with disabilities.

The commission ruled that Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) had one year to lift workers’ wages by 50 per cent.

Western District Employment Agency (WDEA) Enterprises is an ADE provider operating ClearCut Gardening, Nigretta, Fresh Cut Herbs, Warrnambool Environmental and Design, Warrnambool eWaste Electronic Recycling, Steam and Clean and the Hamilton Community Bus.

WDEA chief executive officer Mick White said the wage increase was inevitable however, workers’ jobs were safe. “There was no doubt that there was going to be changes,” he said. “We certainly won’t have any jobs in jeopardy.”

Mr White said the wage increase would be tough.

“This may present short-term difficulties for some agencies and it will alter some people’s wages,” he said. “We will do it, but it will be hard.”

All workers will have to be reassessed and it is likely workers will be assessed under the supported wage system.

The national average wage for workers is $4.50 an hour and Mr White said wages varied at WDEA Enterprises. “Wages range from $15 an hour and slope back to $4 or thereabouts depending on the level (workers) operate at,” he said.

Current wages for disability workers are calculated by the business services wage assessment tool (BSWAT).

The National Council on Intellectual Disability spokesman Paul Cain said last week that this calculation of wages was a major abuse of the human rights of people with a disability and wages should be increased immediately.

“BSWAT severely discounts the wages of employees with disability, with some employees being paid as little as $0.33 per hour,” he said.

The NCID believes the supported wage system is a better alternative to the BSWAT.

“The supported wage system has been successfully used for over 20 years to set the wages of employees with disability, including in many Australian Disability Enterprises,” Mr Cain said.

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