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Unions mark Intl Day of Persons with Disabilities


December 3, 2009
For Immediate Use

Unions mark ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’

The Public Service Association and the Service and Food Workers Union are marking the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ by calling on the government to address long-standing funding problems for the disability support sector.

Today - December 3 - is the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ promoted worldwide by the United Nations.

In his message to mark the day UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon states: “We are all vulnerable to disability, temporary or permanent, especially as we grow older. In most countries, at least one person in 10 is disabled by physical, mental or sensory impairment. A quarter of the global population is directly affected by disability, as care-givers or family members.”

“In New Zealand more than 110,000 people rely on support from a disability support worker because of the extent of their disabilities,” says PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“These disability support workers provide medical support, meals, personal care and domestic help on a daily basis to more than 110,000 disabled New Zealanders.”

“Some disabled New Zealanders need this support 24 hours a day seven days a week.”

“This is difficult and demanding work that makes a huge difference to the quality of life of people incapacitated by disabilities.” says SFWU general secretary John Ryall.

“For this complex and challenging work disability support workers are paid as little as $12.50 an hour, which is the minimum amount an employer can pay an adult worker in New Zealand.”

“This is due primarily to a lack of funding from the government and the complicated and confusing way that the disability sector is funded,” says John Ryall.

“A job evaluation we commissioned shows that disability workers are underpaid,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The evaluation showed that work done by disability support workers supporting people with intellectual disabilities living in community houses, is similar in size and value to the work done by corrections officers working in prisons.

When the evaluation was released in April last year the national average top pay rate for a disability community support worker was $17,500 a year less than a corrections officer.

“Disability support workers are paid thousands of dollars a year less than corrections officers despite an evaluation showing their do work of a similar size and value,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“This huge pay gap shows the urgent need for the government to address the disability sector’s funding problems,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA and SFWU have 7000 members working as disability support workers.

The PSA and SFWU are running a joint campaign to improve the pay and working conditions for disability support workers. The two unions have prepared a paper on the disability sector and the issues driving the underpayment of its workers. A copy of the paper is being issued with this release.
The paper is being sent to all Members of Parliament – including Disability Issues Minister Tariana Turia and Health Minister Tony Ryall - and disability sector employers.

Raising the status of disability support work (pdf)


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