||Issue No. 189||01 August 2003|
The Secret Life of Us
Interview: The New Deal
Unions: In the Line of Hire
Culture: Too Cool for the Collective?
International: The Domino Effect
Industrial: A Spanner in the Works
National Focus: Gathering of the Tribes
History: The Welcome Nazi Tourist
Bad Boss: Domm, Domm Turn Around
Poetry: Just Move On.
Review: Reality Bites
The Locker Room
It Is Still About The Members Isn't It
Tough Women Draw Line at Sacking
The disability support workers this week rejected an IRC recommendation to return to work, holding out for the reinstatement of team leader, Jennifer Cumming, who was dismissed for refusing to cut staffing levels at the day care facility.
Job delegate, Hodges, told NSW Labor Council the issue was health and safety.
"A lot of our guys have very colourful histories of assaulting their families, our staff and other clients, resulting in hospitalisation for a few unlucky people," she said.
"I think you will understand what I mean when I say that unsafe, for us, is potentially fatal."
And not just for themselves. Colman and Hodges reel off a list of "incidents" they have seen with their own eyes, sometimes from very close range...
- a fellow worker wrestled to the ground and nearly suffocated
- biting and scratching on a near daily basis
- workmates and clients being punched
Colman has had chairs thrown her at work.
Both clearly recall the day they had to lock themselves in a van and call for back-up as a 130kg client turned a day visit to St Alban Botanical Gardens into a riot, attempting to punch and kick them.
While they took cover, a second client marched into a nearby supermarket and started eating "stuff". The man had a range of allergies and the
women, responsible for his welfare, knew one bad choice would mean a serious allergic reaction.
Another time, a client cut loose at the Parramatta Bowling Alley, assaulting five staff before he could be subdued.
Colman is one of a number of staff, required to carry a PRN sedation drug, at all times.
Some of the workers at Dural earn less than $14 an hour for performing a service to the community most would run from.
Colman has a six-year-old with autism, and a number of workmates have family members with the condition.
Adequate staffing, she says, is a "must", in everybody's interest.
"Even with the present staffing, things get hairy," she says
Cumming, who sold up in New Zealand to become the third manager of the Autism Association's Dural facility in two years, won the respect of
workers by refusing a budget-driven demand to "lose three staff".
Autism Australia is playing hard ball, changing locks on the building, refusing reinstatement and calling police to the picket line. But workers have been buoyed by the response of local people, especially the
parent and client who joined their picket on Thursday.
"We also have people that abscond at the first opportunity." Hodges said. "But we love our jobs. We make a difference."
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