It is still an unfortunate fact that some employers will take advantage of vulnerable workers in their employ. It may be business owners exploiting newly arrived migrants or refugees, by not informing these people of their rights under Australian Government laws. Even more despicable, are the employers who exploit disabled workers in their employ, with under paying of wages and not providing adequate support and workplace conditions. Some businesses think that just giving disabled workers a job is enough and that they do not consider them deserving of a proper wage.
Standing Up for the Rights of Disabled Workers
Businesses that work in the charity sector have, unfortunately, been the worst offenders in this regard and they employ more disabled workers than any other sector. Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) pays some of their intellectually disabled workers less than $2 per hour to pack boxes in their sheltered workshops. They manage to get away with this appalling rate of pay by basing their remuneration on productivity via the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT). One wonder whether our legalised treatment of those with intellectual disabilities actually belongs back in the eighteenth century.
Probono legal service groups are beginning to challenge some of the worst economic mistreatment of disabled workers, but the Australian Government needs to close these loopholes. The dignity of work is one thing, but if you are being woefully exploited, so that in addition to full time work you require welfare payments just to survive, something is wrong. I remember delivering charity ribbons to letter boxes for an Anglican charity many years ago, when I was down on my luck. This kind of position is filled by many disabled people. I worked out that I was earning about $3 an hour.
Reasonable rates of pay must be afforded to disabled workers. When a disabled person purchases a product or buys a cup of coffee, they do not get a reduced price. So, why should they be made to suffer at the production end of the equation? Compassion does not mean it is OK to pay peanuts to vulnerable people. Compassion is of a higher order altogether. With technology achieving so many things in workplaces, it surely must be possible to invest some friendly computerised technology into these charitable industries, which employ so many people with disabilities. Let’s get out of the dark ages and smarten up, compassionately. There are wonderful organisations who support disabled people and their families in Sydney and throughout Australia. The disability service provider in South West Sydney is helping many vulnerable people meet and overcome some of the pressing challenges in their lives. We need more organisations like this and greater government funding in this sector, not less. Did you hear that Malcolm Turnbull?