||Issue No. 178||16 May 2003|
Interview: Staying Alive
Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Industrial: Last Drinks
National Focus: Around the States
Politics: Radical Surgery
Education: The Price of Missing Out
Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
History: Massive Attack
Culture: What's Right
Review: If He Should Fall
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The Locker Room
In Defence of Tom
Safety Net Slips Disabled
The Labor Council of NSW has called a forum this week to discuss the status of disabled workers, while the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is so concerned its reviewing whether enterprise agreements should even apply.
Fears that disabled workers are getting second class workplace protection, even by the standards of the Workplace Relations Act, have prompted the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to announce a special forum on the issue.
The forum will air claims by disabled advocates that enterprise agreements enterprise are being rubber stamped although they fail to meet No Disadvantage Tests or carry the "consent" of disabled employees.
The AIRC full bench decision, in the Safety Net Review, comes as NSW Labour Council prepares to again grapple with employment issues facing workers with disabilities.
The Council and the community organisation, People with Disabilities, will host a conference next Tuesday at the Redfern Town Hall where organisers hope to establish a formal Alliance to push for better conidtions.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson said unions needed to work with disability groups to ensure "some of society's most vulnerable people are not exploited".
The issue has come to a head as the Howard Government moves to formalise wages and conditions by requiring funding for the 'Business Services sector' (the official term for sheltered workshops) to be linked to registered agreements.
As part of that process, which becomes law in December 2004, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has reviewed a rash of questionable agreements.
These include the Warnambool-based Vantage Incorporated, which has recently had an agreement registered providing for hourly rates of $1.71 across its half dozen operations. A Bendigo provider employs 30 persons on a weekly payroll of $800.
Advocacy groups have long argued that employees of Business Services should have their wage rates based on the type of independent assessment of disabilities applied to counterparts in open employment.
Under that regime a trained, independent assessor puts a percentage figure on the employees' capacity, and wage rates are struck accordingly. The exercise is repeated annually.
The AIRC, in calling its forum, has asked whether enterprise agreements are even appropriate for disabled workers, questioning in some instances, their "legal capacity" to give the required consent.
Some unions have argued for awards to underpin disabled work while others see themselves as industrial professionals ideally placed to give independent advice that would satisfy the issue of consent.
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