The ACTU has welcomed today’s Rudd Government announcement to assist people with disabilities seeking jobs, but has warned that more action is needed to address discrimination against workers with a disability.
In a speech today to the National Disability Employment Services Employment Forum in Brisbane, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said there was still an unacceptably low level of workforce participation among the two million Australians who have a disability.
“People with disabilities continue to face serious obstacles in finding and retaining jobs. “There is still significant discrimination from employers against workers with a disability.
“Workers with disabilities are too often given marginal jobs far below their capacity where they have no security and no opportunities for training or advancement,” said Ms Burrow.
“The Howard Government’s Welfare to Work and WorkChoices policies also impacted particularly harshly on many workers with a disability,” said Ms Burrow.
“Under the Coalition’s IR laws many vulnerable workers were stripped of job security by the loss of protection against unfair dismissal and they also risked losing social security support under the Howard Government’s harsh welfare policies.
Losing the Disability Support Pension (DSP) was a major barrier for people with a disability and many were reluctant to work as they feared losing the pension if they could work up to 15 hours per week. Today’s announcement eliminates this barrier.
The ACTU believes employers can to do their bit to reduce discrimination and provide more job opportunities for people with disabilities.
“Since 1993, the labour force participation rate of people with disabilities has fallen significantly. In 2003, 53.2 per cent of people with disabilities participated in the labour force compared with 80.6 per cent of those without a disability. The unemployment rate for people with a disability is also 3.6 per cent higher than the rate for the population as a whole.
“There is also an erroneous belief that employing people with a disability is an occupational health and safety risk. Last year, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) found no evidence that workers with disability are more likely to be injured at work than other employees.
The ASCC Study also found lower levels of absenteeism among workers with a disability. “The ACTU strongly supports an education campaign aimed at employers so we can dispel these myths and reduce workplace discrimination against workers with a disability,” said Ms Burrow.