Outrageous decision on disability wages

4 May 2015

A decision by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to grant the Australian Government a further four month exemption to allow Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) to continue to pay workers under the discriminatory Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) has shocked a coalition of national disability representative and advocacy organisations.

As a result of the decision, thousands of Australians with disability who work in ADEs, or sheltered workshops as they are more commonly known, will continue to be paid wages less than they would be entitled to if they were paid under a fair and equitable award wage assessment system.

“It was outrageous to see the AHRC grant this exemption without giving disability advocates representing workers in ADEs any notice or opportunity to provide input,” said Samantha French, of People with Disability Australia (PWDA).

“We have been working for over a year in good faith with the Government and ADEs through the Fair Work Commission to develop a fairer wage system for workers in ADEs,” said Kairsty Wilson, of AED Legal Centre.

In 2012 the Federal Court found the BSWAT was discriminatory and contravened the Disability Discrimination Act. In August 2014 the Government announced it would provide $173 million to assist ADEs with transition costs to a fairer wage system.

“Despite it being several years since BSWAT was first found to be discriminatory, we now have a situation in 2015 where BSWAT and other competency based tools to assess wage rates are still being used and this is being supported by the AHRC,” said Paul Cain, of Inclusion Australia.

In seeking a further 12 month exemption for BSWAT from elements of the Disability Discrimination Act, the Government is further delaying the transition to a system that pays people real wages for real work.

People with disability have a right to real wages for real work now.

An application for a review of the decision has been lodged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Paul Cain, Inclusion Australia – 0419 462 928
Kairsty Wilson, AED Legal Centre – 0411 252 410
Samantha French, People with Disability Australia – 0409 029 730