Public Service Association members to join NDIS strike

The Stockton Centre.

The Stockton Centre.

THE federally organised National Disability Insurance Scheme could work perfectly well without privatising state government disability services, the Public Service Association said on Thursday.

The union’s general secretary, Anne Gardiner, was in Newcastle to meet with union members on a range of issues, including a four-hour strike and rally of state disability workers at 670 Hunter Street, Newcastle, at 1.30pm on Wednesday, November 4.

Although the strike was originally called by group home workers, PSA members at the Stockton Centre have voted to take part. 

A follow-up rally is planned for the Illawarra on December 3.

Ms Gardiner said the NDIS had become ‘‘a Trojan horse’’ for the privatisation of the state government’s Ageing, Disability and Home Care agency, known as ADHC.

She acknowledged that federal Labor had been ‘‘complicit’’ in the funding deal that included the privatisation of NSW disability services, but said there was still time to reverse bad policy. 

‘‘I think as we see more of what is happening there are a growing number of politicians understanding the implications of the original agreement.’’ She said ADHC was the biggest privatisation, jobs wise, in state government history, and ‘‘a textbook example of how to do it wrong’’.

Disability Services Minister John Ajaka dismissed the union’s concerns, saying it was ‘‘actively working against the NDIS’’ by ‘‘implementing work bans that prevents its members from helping people with disability [make the] transition to the scheme’’.  

“The PSA is operating entirely out of self-interest to the detriment of people with disability,’’ he said.

Tomaree Lodge

Tomaree Lodge

Mr Ajaka said the union was only interested in revenue from union fees and would not bargain in good faith. He cited an agreement earlier this year with the United Voice union over home care showed good faith negotiations were possible.

But Ms Gardiner said the government had deliberately shut the union out of negotiations, citing a new agreement signed on September 15 between Canberra and Macquarie Street that aims to ‘‘build on the NDIS trial in the Hunter’’.

The agreement said ‘‘a transition taskforce has been established to examine employment issues and workforce strategies to maximise employment opportunities for NSW government disability staff’’.

But Ms Gardiner asked how such a group could be properly representative without the union’s involvement, giving the number of members it had in ADHC.

Tensions between the government and its opponents increased this week after the Newcastle Herald revealed details of the government’s call for expressions of interest in building almost 80 group homes to house about 400  Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra  residents.

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