Disabled pay case to be appealed

SOLICITORS for Coffs Harbour man Michael Nojin and another intellectually disabled man from Victoria, Gordon Prior, have lodged an appeal against a court decision last month which denied workers in their position a pay increase for their work.

No date has yet been set for the hearing of the appeal.

The case, which began in the Federal Court in April, was considered to be a test case for workers with disabilities.

Both men were working at disability enterprises, also known as sheltered workshops, when they launched the action.

The two men claimed the Business Service Wage Assessment Tool, introduced in 2004 for people with disabilities working at these enterprises, resulted in unlawful discrimination by keeping the wages of workers with disabilities unfairly low.

Mr Nojin, who has cerebral palsy, impaired motor skills, asthma and an intellectual disability, was paid $2.46 an hour by his then-employer, Coffs Harbour Challenge, until he was reassessed under the BSWAT, which calculated his wage at $1.79 an hour.

He worked sweeping floors and shredding documents.

Mr Prior, who has vision and intellectual impairment, was assessed at $3.47 an hour in 2007 under BSWAT, when working as a gardener at Stawell Intertwine Services but was reassessed at $10.33 an hour when he began working at a dry cleaning business in 2008.

He was reassessed using a different method, the Supported Wage System, paid by employers rather than the government.

This wage assessment system takes into account only productivity, not competence in other workplace matters like fire drills and what to do if you do not get on with other workers

The case was launched by the Association of Employees with Disability Legal Centre, which has now lodged an appeal against the judgment.

About 60 other workers with disabilities also have similar complaints about low pay.

Mr Nojin and Mr Prior sought back pay and compensation from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

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