Thursday, 6 October 2022

Disability workers go backwards on the Federal Governments’ watch

Thousands of workers in the disability sector in NSW stand to lose pay and conditions this week in what the Community and Public Sector Union has labelled “an abandonment by all levels of government”.

It comes upon the latest expiry of the five-year copied state awards, in the last month for employees LiveBetter, Ability Options and Aruma, following the privatisation of the NSW Government’s group home functions in 2017.

The workers, who look after some of the most vulnerable people in the community, say the Government could stop them going backwards with the stroke of a pen.

Of the many thousands of employees transferred to private sector providers by the NSW Government, they now stand to lose employment conditions such as parental leave and long service leave, while also having their pay frozen at a time of spiralling inflation.

Their employment conditions could have been protected, claims the union, by the making of a Regulation as permissible under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) which would extend the life of their Award.

But the Federal Government has flatly refused to do so, citing the potential expense involved.

CPSU NSW Branch Assistant Secretary Troy Wright says the government talks the talk when it comes to improving carers’ pay and conditions but won’t walk the walk.

“The government could pass a simple regulation today to enshrine current pay and conditions of these workers, who do some of the most challenging jobs in the workforce, but they simply refuse to,” said Mr Wright.

“We keep hearing from the government about a workforce crisis in the disability sector.  We keep hearing from the government about their desire for no worker to be left behind or disadvantaged.

“Yet here is a straight-forward example where intervention is required to stop exactly that happening and they have refused to act”.

Mr Wright said many of their members are now disillusioned with both the LNP and the ALP after being let down by both parties.

“First these workers and the essential services they provide to the people they work with were unnecessarily and opportunistically privatised by the NSW Liberals under the guise of the NDIS. Now, after what we warned at that time is eventuating, they have been further disappointed by Federal Labor”.

The CPSU NSW fears the resultant drop in wages and conditions will lead to many valuable and experienced workers leaving the sector, at a time when they are desperately needed.