Greenacres, Flagstaff CEOs welcome Fair Work decision on wages

Welcome verdict: Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou with supported workers last September as part of the My Job Counts campaign.
Welcome verdict: Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou with supported workers last September as part of the My Job Counts campaign.

The CEOs of Illawarra’s major disability enterprises have welcomed a Fair Work decision they claim will save the jobs of up to 600 workers in this region alone.

Greenacres, Flagstaff and The Disability Trust are among 180 Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE) across the nation who were anxiously awaiting the decision on wage reform.

The Fair Work Commission inspected a number of ADEs in Wollongong and Sydney, and heard evidence from their CEOs, as part of the award review in February.

Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou said the push for a productivity-only wage assessment tool – rather than a skills-based tool – would have forced enterprises to cut jobs, or even close.

On Monday night, Fair Work released its preliminary decision, in which it determined that the Supported Wage System (SWS) productivity-based tool by itself was not an  “appropriate method” of determining the wage rates of supported employees in ADEs.

“The SWS .. does not take into account the proper range of work value considerations used to assess award wage rates, namely the nature of the work, the level of skill and responsibility involved in doing the work and the conditions under which the work is done,” Fair Work stated.

The commission recommended all existing wage assessment tools be phased out over time, with a new classification structure to be developed with input from all parties.

“This new wage assessment mechanism should meet the objectives of fairness, equality, objectivity, independence and sustainability and be non-discriminatory,” the statement read.

Mr Christodoulou said Greenacres now looked forward to working with other ADEs, the Commonwealth Government and other stakeholders on a fair and transparent classification system.

“We really welcome the statement of the full bench of the Fair Work Commission to reject the application by certain advocacy groups to impose a wage assessment based only on productivity,” he said. “That decision will enable everybody to work towards finding a new national way of determining wages for supported employees which includes a system based on employees’ skills.

“It gives Greenacres, and other ADEs, breathing space in terms of maintaining jobs.”

The Illawarra disability enterprises, their workers, families and supporters, have run a long campaign against the SWS under the banner ‘My Job Counts’ – with hundreds attending rallies in Wollongong mall.

Flagstaff CEO Roy Rogers said: “After years of fighting for the rights of our people with disabilities to access sustainable employment, the commission has listened to what we’ve had to say and made an informed decision.

“That decision will enable us to provide secure, safe employment for people with disabilities. There’s still a lot of work for us to do .. but this is a fair and just decision.”

The Illawarra enterprises will meet with workers and supporters on Wednesday morning, to celebrate and kick off the consultation process.