Intellectually disabled workers win $100m payout, after being exploited

Published: 17 December 2016 Image credit: publicsource.org

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Disabled workers from across the nation, who are getting paid as little as $1 an hour, have won a $100 million compensation payout.

The landmark verdict comes after workers launched class against the Commonwealth of Australia in 2013, claiming Australian Disability Enterprise workers had been exploited.

They argued that the lack-lustre payments they received were in breach of disability discrimination laws.

About 10,000 employees are expected to get a slice of the huge handout, after the settlement was signed off by the Federal Court yesterday ending “a very long-running battle”.

“It’s been a David and Goliath battle, and the most unusual battle I’ve ever been involved with,” Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Josh Bornstein said, citing that the $100 million settlement is the largest of any case he’d ever worked with.

"We will no longer have workers with intellectual disabilities working in Dickensian conditions.”

Some of the employees who were ripped off could receive as much as $100,000 in backpay.

Mr Bornstein described it as a “historic outcome”.

Maurice Blackburn, on behalf of the workers, argued the assessment tool called BSWAT, used to calculate workers’ wages, discriminated against people with intellectual disabilities.

Across Australia thousands of disabled individuals are working in packing, manufacturing and cleaning jobs organised through Australian Disability Enterprises, Fairfax Media reports.

Disability lawyer Kairsty Wilson said she’s been fighting the commonwealth for more than a decade to lift wages for people with disabilities.

"The outcome for all these workers around Australia is tremendous," she said.

"They will now get the backpay they are entitled to."