The Courts are an unsatisfactory tool for fashioning public policy.
Laws forcing services to use a wage tool that would cause closure due to financial insolvency would mean some 70% of those people in Australia’s Disability Enterprises (previously called ‘sheltered workshops’) could soon be unemployed. Then they would have no employment income and have to pay for day services (if they could get them ) or be forced to stay at home in the care of their families.
The legal system is such that only lawyers and government-funded disability rights activists know the rules. That’s a whole new world for parents trying to protect their children’s right of choice. Our family members are expected to just play along.
More importantly, some 9,998 workers with intellectual disability have had no say about either the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT ) Payment Bill now before the Senate, or the forced imposition of an alternative Supported Wage assessment tool by the end of April.
Parents know exactly what’s at stake if their adult child with an intellectual disability loses their job in a Disability Enterprise. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the loss of dignity that work provides. It’s the loss of security, the loss of social interaction with their peers, the loss of their sense of achievement and inclusion as valued members of their community, the loss of their self-esteem and pride.
It’s also about the loss of their Right of Choice.
The right to choose whether they take any entitled compensation by opting out of a class action law suit in which they were included, without consultation or consent. The right to choose to continue working their current job, earning a fair wage consistent with their capacity.
If the actions of the ideologues force closures, then our workers cannot choose what no longer exists because more time is needed to develop an alternative wage tool.
Many people currently working in Disability Enterprises contend these choices have been denied them because of actions unilaterally taken by funded rights activists, the lawyers and the unions, without any reference to the major stakeholders: the workers with an intellectual disability themselves, their parents, families and carers.
I was there at the Fair Work Commission hearings, witnessed the ideological fight by funded advocates, lawyers and unionists, saw how family members are depicted.
If some of the workers now employed in Disability Enterprises work in open employment, that’s great for them. But the majority cannot.
Families of Australians with significant intellectual disabilities are deeply frustrated by a system that can mount an argument based on rights; and yet, in the course of that argument deny the basic right of choice to our nation’s most vulnerable workers.
No one’ jobs should be demeaned, disparaged, or jeopardised in this way.
Many of our members are parents of adult children with intellectual disability employed in Disability Enterprises. We don’t talk about disability. We live it.
Our families send out a call to the Senate to respect our family members’ Right of Choice – a basic human right – and support the passage of the BSWAT Payment Bill through the Upper House.
We are frustrated by the process, and lack of it, but we are fearless – not frightened – when fighting to protect the jobs of our sons and daughters with intellectual disability. We know the value of jobs for these workers, especially when so many able-bodied workers cannot get jobs.
Mary Lou Carter