Cunningham MP Sharon Bird has shared a Greenacres employee’s poem with Parliament this week as she pledged her support for the plight of Australian Disability Enterprises.
Last month Ms Bird brought Labor spokeswoman for disability and carers Carol Brown to Wollongong to speak with staff from local enterprises, including Greenacres and the Flagstaff Group.
These organisations are among the 180 ADEs across Australia awaiting a Fair Work Commission decision this week on the best method of assessing wages for people with a disability.
Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou and Flagstaff CEO Roy Rogers have told the Mercury their organisations could be forced to cut jobs, or even close, if a new productivity-based wage tool is introduced.
Currently employees receive a ‘pro rata’ wage rate, which depends on their skills and how much support they need at work.
“Labor supports Australian Disability Enterprises and we recognise their vital role as employers of people with disabilities,” Ms Bird told Parliament on Tuesday.
“We also acknowledge and value the training, the life skills and the social opportunities that people with disabilities access through their employment with ADEs.
“In addition we strongly support ADEs providing pathways for so many people to open employment.
“We believe they should receive real and practical support from government to maintain their viability in this complex and changing employment and workplace environment, and in the context of the NDIS.”
Ms Bird said many local employees were concerned about the award review, and had been supporting a national campaign My Job Counts. Workers like Greenacres employee Sharon Kennedy.
“Sharon was so worried about her job that she wrote a poem. I said if I could get the chance to share it I would,” Ms Bird said.
In part, Ms Kennedy’s poem states: “My job at Greenacres Disability Services means so much to me. Making lots of friends and happy memories. As I’m sure you will agree, it’s not about the money that I receive, it’s about the life skills that I can learn and achieve.”
Ms Bird said these not-for-profit businesses provided income and training as well as socialisation and support for their workers.
“One of the greatest pleasures is to go along to their functions for retirements of people who have worked in some cases for 50 years with these organisations,” she said.
“Just the simple pride and joy that these people take in their work should be a stark reminder to all of us that, indeed, their job counts.”