"Least Productive" Sheltered Workers To Be Rejected
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 3, 2003
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--New Zealand's Disability Issues Ministry wants to throw out a "sub-minimum wage" law that is commonly used by sheltered workshops, because it treats people with disabilities unfairly.
The Disabled Persons' Employment Promotion Act of 1960 allows sheltered workshops to pay people with disabilities -- who are considered less productive than those without disabilities -- less than the standard minimum wage. For years, sheltered workshops around the world have insisted that this is the only way they -- or any other business, for that matter -- can afford to employ them.
"When it is repealed, people with disabilities will have the same employment rights as everyone else," said Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson in the December issue of her newsletter.
Last week, two sheltered workshops responded to the proposal by announcing that they plan to lay off up to 20 of their "least productive" workers.
While the ministry claims it is maintaining its position, it is also considering two options that those workers may not find fair either.
One is a suggestion from the charity that runs the workshops. Workforce Industries is suggesting the ministry convert workers' benefits into wages. That would mean that those who are "less productive" would work at the facility in order to receive their government benefits in the form of wages. In the meantime the workshop, which would profit from their work, would not have to pay their wages.
Dyson told the New Zealand Herald that the ministry is already working out the details for proposed unpaid "community participation" programs for those considered "unable to perform productive work".
"Sheltered workers fear job loss" (The New Zealand Herald)