A Federal Court judge has reversed $20,000-a-year pay cuts imposed on the managers of group homes for people with severe disabilities by not-for-profit group Northcott, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The case has implications for the wages of more than 10,000 workers who look after Australians with high care needs but also the financial sustainability of the organisations that run the group homes after the NSW government privatised about 800 of them over the last decade under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The group home system paid public service wages when run by the NSW government, but private operators such as Northcott say those pay rates are now unaffordably high under the NDIS’ funding model.
Northcott took over 99 homes across NSW in 2017 and restructured its operations in 2019. As a result, the “team leaders” who had operated its group houses were made redundant and replaced with “service coordinators” who were offered about $80,000 a year, down from the roughly $100,000 paid to those in the previous role.
In the Federal Court case, Justice Anna Katzmann ruled in January that 56 workers who had been shifted to the lower-paid roles actually did the same work as before, meaning their pay should stay the same.
The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents the workers, feared the pay cut discouraged skilled staff from staying in the industry and would trigger other operators departing from the former public service pay rates.
In the wake of the court’s judgment, Northcott is asking its workers to approve an enterprise bargaining agreement covering its entire workforce that would effectively override the court judgment and lower the pay of some workers by as much as $8000, the CPSU said.
Judge overturns pay cut for disability workers after group homes privatised (Sydney Morning Herald)