History tells us the Nats will use any excuse they can to undermine people’s work rights, but this is low even for them. Desperate for an angle to oppose the extension of minimum wage rights to disabled workers, National hit on an idea: argue that paying disabled workers the legal minimum is actually bad for them and is strongly opposed by their families. Better yet, quote the IHC in support of your position too. Here’s what National MP Paul Hutchison had to say on Friday:
“The effect of this legislation is to ensure people with disabilities are paid the minimum wage, but this is impossible for many non-profit IHC businesses.
“The legislation allows workers who are significantly limited in their work because of a disability to be issued with a minimum wage exemption, but the IHC is not supporting this.
Dr Hutchison cites the example of Taupo Ironing, an IHC-run business which has been severely affected by the legislation…
“It is going to cause widespread distress for many families.”
But the IHC’s release yesterday tells a different story:
IHC New Zealand strongly supports the repeal of Disabled Persons Employment Promotion (DPEP) Act because it gives workers with intellectual disabilities equal rights in the workplace.
IHC’s Director of Advocacy Trish Grant says that IHC supports inclusive workplaces. “The sheltered workshops of old saw people with intellectual disabilities kept separate from communities.”
“IHC Advocacy has talked to thousands of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, and they have told us consistently that they want opportunities for real work and they want real pay for the work they do.”
So let’s get this straight: not only did National get completely the wrong end of the stick, they also misrepresented the IHC’s position in order to further their own political agenda. Did National even bother talking to the IHC or the families of disabled workers before deciding to use them to score political points?
This kind of behaviour comes across as more than a little cynical, and gives the impression of a party more interested in helping its wealthy backers to employ cheap labour than it is in protecting the rights of disabled workers.
Because if National aren’t acting for disabled workers and their families on this issue, who exactly are they acting for?