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Wage theft becoming widespread in the NDIS, union says

Wage theft has become so common within the NDIS it could be described as a standard business model for many providers, according to the Australian Services Union NSW & ACT.

The union is calling on the Federal Government to urgently stamp out rampant wage theft of disability support workers as it actively investigates more than 30 providers over alleged wage theft and fraud in NSW alone.

This month, the union has referred two providers to the NDIS Commission, the NDIA, and the Fair Work Ombudsman, for further probing as part of its investigations.

The NDIA’s own wage benchmarking report shows 10 percent of providers are even self-reporting that they are paying disability support workers below the minimum hourly rate required by the relevant Award.

“Wage theft in the disability support sector is rampant. It’s bad for workers and is ripping off people with disability at the same time,” ASU NSW & ACT Secretary Angus McFarland said.

“Wage theft undermines efforts to attract and retain workers in an industry plagued by high staff turnover. Without a robust workforce, NDIS participants are left without the vital support they need.

“It’s criminal to underpay staff - it’s even worse during a cost of living crisis. Next month, disability support workers on minimum award wages will be entitled to a 5.75 per cent pay rise thanks to the Fair Work Commission. I question whether the full benefit will be passed on to all workers if greedy providers continue underpaying our essential workers.

“There’s only so much we can do as a union to hold dodgy providers to account. Seeking justice through the courts is lengthy and workers are often reluctant, fearing they will lose their jobs in such a highly casualised sector.

“It’s encouraging to see the Federal Government is committed to cracking down on fraud in the NDIS. Wage suppression must be prioritised as part of this process. We need to prevent and catch cases of underpayment as soon as possible before providers flee the country, fold or embed this practice in their business models.

“Equal pay rates have been properly funded in the NDIS, so wage theft should be treated as a compliance issue. We are calling for a reformed system that enforces upfront requirements for providers to pass on the correct wages to workers.”

This week, NDIS workers will rally across parts of NSW calling for solutions to improve conditions and address workforce shortages, including by stamping out underpayments and adopting portable leave and training schemes.

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