Illawarra disability workers rally against 'shameful' plans: photos

Passing motorists honked their horns in support as Illawarra disability workers took to the street on Friday afternoon to protest plans to privatise the sector.

‘‘Shame!’’ cried members of the almost 100-strong crowd at the intersection of Porter Street and University Avenue in North Wollongong, as speakers outlined the state government’s plans to withdraw from the sector by 2018.

Protesters held banners with slogans that spoke volumes. ‘‘NDIS yes, Privatisation No’’ stated one; ‘‘Our service is not for sale’’ another.

Public Service Association acting general secretary Steve Turner said the stopwork action, held from 2.30pm to 3.30pm, had not affected any services in the region.

‘‘The NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) was a great scheme introduced by the last Federal Government,’’ he said. ‘‘It was about support for people with a disability and about increasing their choice.

‘‘The NSW government is the only state government which has signed up for the scheme only to say it will no longer deliver any ageing, disability or home care services by 2018.

‘‘It currently provides 40 per cent of those services so how can it be about increasing choice if it’s taking those services away?’’

Mr Turner said the government would be ‘‘forcibly transferring’’ the state’s 14,500 Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) workers to the private sector, with no guarantee that their pay and conditions would be protected.

Illawarra union delegate, Shane Elliott, said the move would discourage people from working in the sector.

‘‘At the end of the day privatisation will see our wages cut by 30 per cent and our conditions will fall,’’ he said. ‘‘This will represent a massive decrease in the reasons why people would choose to work in disability services.’’

Parents and carers of people with disabilities attended the rally, concerned about the care their loved ones would receive in the private sector.

Koonawarra mother Sonia Facey has written to Premier Mike Baird to let him know the value of publicly run services like Dapto Respite Centre, which gives her family a break by caring for her son Nathan a few times a month. 

‘‘I wonder how you would feel if you were scared of your 12-year-old child?,’’ she stated.

‘‘If you lived each day fearing that this child was going to give you a black eye, a broken jaw or any number of other injuries.’’

Mrs Facey said the Dapto centre had been given a reprieve until July 2016 however, like other public disability services, its ongoing future was uncertain.

‘‘It is not only the families affected by this but the staff as well because their future is unclear too,’’ she said.

The union hopes to get 20,000 signatures on a petition which will be handed to parliament in October. 

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