The Australian Services Union NSW & ACT has sounded the alarm over the widespread issue of wage theft within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), characterizing it as a common practice among service providers.
The union is urging the Federal Government to take immediate action to combat this rampant wage theft, which primarily affects disability support workers. With over 30 providers currently under investigation for wage theft and fraud in NSW alone, the scale of the problem is becoming increasingly apparent.
Referral of Providers for Further Investigation
The Australian Services Union NSW & ACT has taken a significant step by referring two providers to key authorities including the NDIS Commission, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), and the Fair Work Ombudsman. This move comes as part of the ongoing investigations into alleged wage theft and aims to shed light on the extent of the problem while holding accountable those responsible.
Alarming Self-Reported Statistics
Adding to the gravity of the situation, the NDIA’s wage benchmarking report reveals that even 10 percent of providers have admitted to paying disability support workers below the minimum hourly rate mandated by the relevant Award. Angus McFarland, Secretary of ASU NSW & ACT, commented on the dire consequences of wage theft, stating, “Wage theft in the disability support sector is rampant. It’s bad for workers and is ripping off people with disability at the same time.”
The Australian Services Union NSW & ACT emphasizes the need for immediate government intervention to combat wage theft and protect the rights of disability support workers. Seeking justice through the courts can be a protracted and challenging process, with workers in the highly casualized sector often apprehensive about losing their jobs. To ensure a fair and sustainable environment within the NDIS sector, the union calls for comprehensive reforms that enforce upfront requirements for providers to pay workers their rightful wages.
Urgent Need for Action
The wage theft issue poses severe challenges to the disability support workforce, including high staff turnover and difficulty attracting and retaining skilled workers. The consequences are far-reaching, as NDIS participants are left without the critical support they require. Against the backdrop of an impending cost of living crisis, the upcoming 5.75 percent pay rise for disability support workers on minimum award wages, sanctioned by the Fair Work Commission, raises concerns about whether all workers will benefit fully if providers continue to underpay essential workers.
NDIS workers in various regions of NSW are gearing up for rallies to demand actionable solutions that improve working conditions and address workforce shortages. Key demands include eradicating underpayments, implementing portable leave schemes, and establishing training programs to meet the pressing needs of the workforce. These workers stand united in their quest for substantial improvements that will guarantee fair compensation and a supportive environment within the NDIS sector.
The urgency to address wage theft and create a more equitable system is paramount to ensuring the well-being of disability support workers and the provision of essential services to NDIS participants.