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Passion and commitment

New deputy vice president Mark Hyde’s first official visit to a disability service was an eye-opener — but also reassuringly familiar to an old trade hand.


y first visit to a disability service as deputy vice president of TAFE and Adult Provision (TAP) was to Monkami Centre in Lilydale. Straight away the familiarity of the workplace welcomed me, as an old construction worker — the stacks of timber, materials being moved and stacked by a pallet trolley, workers in safety gear. The only difference I could see between this and the other workplaces or learning facilities that I was used to was the terminology and the additional duty of care. I turned to Jo Fogarty, vice president of TAP, and disability organiser Meaghan Flack as we walked through the gates and said: “We’re on my turf now.” Introducing ourselves to the supervisors, AEU members Robynne, Harald and Carol, we found a familiar passion and commitment to the facility and the supported workers. Listening to the workplace stories reinforced the article I’d just read about “skilling people with a disability”. This workplace not only prepares people for employment but also equips them with the skills to maintain a job. Enough of this — let’s get out there on the floor with the workers. As we moved around the facility we observed them packaging paint rollers and trays and fitting safety strips to commercial downlights. Easier

said than done but the team led by Kristen makes it look easy. Next to Rags, sorting different materials and cutting it into sizes before packaging. I didn’t realise there were so many different types of materials — Emma and Nicole, two of the supported workers, kept me on my toes explaining all of this. Emma said she lives with her mum and helps with the cooking. Nicole told us she got married late last year, so I left Jo and Meaghan to discuss this while I checked out the advanced machinery, guarding and work area. On to Kindling where the workers cut blocks of wood into 200mm sections so they can be fed into a splitting machine. The docking saw blade rises up from the table with guarding all around — well thought-out, safe and practical. “Big Michael” showed me the logs where they used to split wood by hand using tomahawks. Not very safe, he noted. Now they use a machine from Germany, the only one in Australia, I’m told. Blocks are fed into the splitter by gravity, then split in a totally enclosed part of the machine before coming out on a conveyor to be sorted and packed. All in all, a good morning with a look at new technology, committed staff and engaged supported workers who are proud of their workplace.

Deputy vice president TAP Mark Hyde and and vice president TAP Jo Fogarty (below, back row) visit Monkami Disability Centre in Lilydale

One thing that stuck in my mind as we were leaving was the sign above the urn in the tea room: “Be patient, wait your turn.” I wish that sign was standard in the other places I’ve worked at. ◆

In case of flood…

Clearing up flooded premises is best left to the professionals.


ECENT heavy rains saw flooding in parts of Melbourne, and the AEU was contacted by members who had been asked to clean up flooded premises. Being asked to do a job for which you haven’t been trained is an occupational health and safety issue. Working in waterlogged and muddy buildings presents a risk to workers’ health and safety. In circumstances such as these it is appropriate for the elected health and safety representative (HSR) to speak to management and indicate that our members have been advised by the AEU not to participate in cleaning up as it poses a risk to health and safety.

Aside from the work involved, such clean ups should be done by professionals to prevent future hazards such as rotting and mould in the buildings and fixtures. In the case of flooding, there are machines which can extract and pump away the water and large fans which can assist the drying out process. Once the work is completed, the HSR should inspect the site to ensure that it is safe to occupy. If not, the rep can lodge a provisional improvement notice (PIN). AEU HSR support officer Janet Marshall can be contacted for further help and advice on (03) 9417 2822 or ◆  — Kerry Maher disability services organiser

A E U h e a d o f f i c e 112 Trenerr y Crescent, Abbotsford 3067 Tel: 03 9417 2822 Fax : 1300 658 078 Web : u v i c . a s n . a u

Pay case to tackle low wages for

“women’s work”

A test case to determine the true value of work in disability services could prove a long-awaited watershed for low-paid members. Barb Jennings AEU women’s officer


he latest AEU News features a heart-wrenching description of the work of a disability sector member: “Would you do my job?” We know that your work is undervalued and we know how hard you work in very difficult circumstances. But we are hopeful that there will be good news for some of our low paid members in the future. The AEU understands that some disability services employees may be part of a Pay Equity Case resulting from an agreement between unions and the Federal Government. This will be a test case under the new Fair Work Act. The Act allows for a “re-valuing” of work with the “unintended gender bias” removed.

What’s my

The value of work (and hence the pay rate) has traditionally been set by measuring three things: skills, responsibility and conditions of work. Our argument is that many skills that women develop and use at work are not valued properly. For example, much of women’s work requires complex emotional skills — negotiation, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence etc. These are skills and not “natural attributes” of women. They need to be valued and paid accordingly. Much of the work women do also has a high level of responsibility. Disability workers in adult training and support services have a large responsibility for the safety and lives of their clients. Much of this work is also carried out in conditions that are potentially violent and therefore

awa r d ? J

ANUARY 1 saw the new Modern Awards come into effect, part of the Federal Government’s new Fair Work Australia industrial framework.

Part 1 services The new award for day programs in the disability sector is called the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award and is the replacement for those employees who were previously employed under Part 1 of the Disability Services Award. The classification and pay scales are quite different from the previous award so there will need to be a process of translation. The AEU is keen to receive any feedback from members whose pay or conditions have been adversely affected. Transitional provisions mean that changes to wage rates — up or down — should not occur before July 1, 2011. But changes to overtime and penalty rates can occur after July 1 this year. For those services which have agreements with the AEU, these continue to operate. You can check which agreement covers you on our website — go to


Disability Services newsletter | march 2010

unsafe, and often there is physical discomfort and unpleasantness. The AEU has long argued that much of the work that women traditionally do in the workplace is undervalued. Our view is that if the skills, responsibilities and conditions at work of many women workers were properly assessed and measured, then many would be due for a sizeable pay rise. This was, in fact, found to be the situation in a recent community services case and women received an 18–37% pay increase as a result. The Pay Equity Case will look at this situation in a national context. The AEU hopes to be involved in this case along with ACTU and the Australian Services Union. Either way, we will keep you posted of its progress. ◆

The new Modern Awards came into force on January 1. Here’s how you can find out which award and agreements govern your terms and conditions.

Most day program services are covered by an AEU 2008 Agreement, either with VHIA, VECCI or SIAG (the employer organisations). Some remain covered by the 2005 Agreement or even the 1999 MECA. If you’re not sure which one applies to you, get in touch (see contact details below). Part 2 and 4 services The new Modern Award for Parts 2 & 4 is called the Supported Employment Services Award. Again, the award classification scales and wages have changed, and a process of translation will need to occur. As for Part 1 employees, there should be no loss of wages or conditions and you should notify the AEU if this occurs. If you’re unsure which industrial instrument covers you — or if your wages and conditions have worsened under the new awards — call your organisers Kerry Maher and Meaghan Flack, or MSU officer David Bunn on (03) 9417 2822 or email us at: ◆

Time to speak up T

he AEU is keen to engage members in a political lobbying campaign in this state election year. We need to apply pressure to the Government to provide increased funding to the sector — we can then negotiate an agreement that reflects the value of the work that our members do. We will be inviting members to attend Disability Services Committee meetings to sign up as activists and we need our members to recruit non-union workers to add strength to our campaign. Your organisers are always happy to visit to discuss how your sub-branch can assist this campaign. ◆ — Kerry Maher disability services organiser

Disabilty Sector Newsletter, Term 1, 2010  
Disabilty Sector Newsletter, Term 1, 2010  

AEU disability sector member newsletter for Term 1, 2010.