Support workers fight for their own support

AJ Keast Park was the scene of the latest campaign by the Australian Services Union as part of the nationwide campaign by the union, which represents disability workers.

NDIS workers, along with several NDIS clients, gathered at the park to raise awareness of the ASU’s Best NDIS campaign, which aims to introduce portable entitlements to the industry, much like the portable entitlements already available to other professions, and NDIS workers in some other states.

The ASU’s Sam Parker, organiser for the Broken Hill area, met with community service and disability workers at the event.

Locally, workers within the industry have become increasingly concerned with what they say are continued workforce shortages and high staff turnover rates that have been seen right across the country.

More than half a million Australians who live with a disability access NDIS workers, though alleged flaws in the design and provision of the program mean some services can often not be delivered due to workforce challenges.

Meanwhile, demand for the NDIS continues to grow.

Natalie Haylett, who is a local disability worker and member of the ASU, spoke at the campaign.

She talked about her experience in the industry – some 16 years as a support worker. She pointed out she still needed to work a further two years before she being eligible to access long-service leave.

Mrs Haylett said, “I am a proud union member and I support the campaign for portable leave entitlements and portable training for NDIS workers.”

Like many employees in the industry, Mrs Haylett works in respite houses, day programs, transition to work programs, as well as completing community work, such as drop-in community support.

In her speech, Mrs Haylett said, “portable entitlements would allow me to ensure that what I’ve earned in the industry can be transferred to other workplaces, and if I leave a workplace, I don’t have to go back to level one.

“We’re only asking for the same rights that exist in other industries, and even in our own industry in other states.”

The ASU’s Ms Parker said the next steps for local members now are to, “continue the campaign to draw attention to the issues of wage theft and for portable entitlements”.

“They will meet with their colleagues and with the providers of local services to talk about the issues and why these are important in their workplaces,” she added.

“We want to have a united approach in every workplace because we know that stopping wage theft and ensuring that disability support workers have the security of portable entitlements is in everyone’s interests.”

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