Public Service Association members protest in Tamworth over privatisation of disability sector

PROTEST: Disability workers and Public Service Association officials rallied outside Kevin Anderson's office on Tuesday. Photo: Simon McCarthy
PROTEST: Disability workers and Public Service Association officials rallied outside Kevin Anderson's office on Tuesday. Photo: Simon McCarthy

TAMWORTH disability service workers have made a public appeal for the NSW Premier to ‘show some heart’ amid plans to privatise the sector.

As a sea of hearts and placards flocked to Sydney’s Parliament House on Valentine’s Day, Tamworth workers rallied outside Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson’s office in protest.

The workers appealed to the premier to ensure government care is continued to be provided to the region’s most vulnerable amid a decision to privatise the Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care to make way for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The decision could affect about 200 workers in group homes and respite care centres in the North West with workers to lose an estimated one third of their income if they transfer into the sector, the Public Service Association said.

Steve Mears, PSA North West organiser said local workers were also concerned for the welfare of their clients. “They’re looking at about a $19,700 drop in wages and that’s only if we can get the government to agree to sign off on the agreement for them to go across,” he said.

“What’s happening at the moment is they’re being treated like slaves and realistically sold across to the private sector and have been given no option of saying no other than walking out of the door on a Friday. “They’re not high paid people, they’re carrying a certificate three or four qualification in disabilities and going into a sector where currently there is no emphasis on those qualifications.”

Mr Mears said the privatisation was expected to occur over the next 18-months. There isn’t an unending pool of non-government workers and the concern is if these guys are going to lose a substantial amount of money they may leave the sector,” he said.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson described the industrial action as “abhorrent” and put people with a disability at risk.

“Many people with disability rely on their support workers to get out of bed, to eat, to take medication, and for personal care. It is not fair to leave vulnerable people with reduced or non-existent care,” he said.

The planned strike has forced the NSW Government to put plans in place to mitigate against the risk of harm to the people we support. This has meant cancelling respite care, and replacing workers in group homes where their expertise and knowledge of their clients is most needed.

“The PSA are protesting the transfer of disability services to the non-government sector. This has been public knowledge since the historic signing of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Heads of Agreement in 2012 by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.

“The transfer of these services is an important part of enabling the long-term success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as it will allow participants to have their choice of services within a diverse market.

The workers who provide care for people with disability are some of the most dedicated and caring people in the community. But they are being let down by the PSA and sadly, so are people with disabilities in this state.”