Disabled pay battle lost in court

COFFS Harbour man Michael Nojin and another intellectually disabled worker from Victoria have lost a court battle with the Federal Government that they hoped would boost pay for 20,000 disabled workers across Australia.

Mr Nojin and Gordon Prior claimed that disabled workers had been severely underpaid under a government assessment tool.

But in Melbourne on Friday, Federal Court Justice Peter Gray said the men had failed to show they were unlawfully discriminated against.

Mr Nojin, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, impaired motor skills and an intellectual disability, has swept floors and shredded documents under a work scheme for just $1.85 an hour.

Lawyer David Shaw says it was a disappointing judgment and they will consider an appeal.

"We certainly realise we had a difficult case to pursue," Mr Shaw said.

"Obviously we would have liked a better outcome, but this is not the end of the road."

At issue was the Business Service Wage Assessment Tool, introduced in 2004 for disabled people who work at disability enterprises, also known as sheltered workshops.

The assessment tool, used to set wages, was created for disabled workers by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

But the men claimed it resulted in unlawful discrimination by keeping wages of disabled workers unfairly low. The case, which began in the Federal Court in Melbourne in April, was considered to be a test case for disabled workers.

It was launched by the Association of Employees with Disability Legal Centre, which represents more than 60 disabled workers with low-wage complaints, many of whom awaited the outcome of this hearing.



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