Last week, the government put two IHC companies into statutory management after they indicated that they would not be able to pay staff wages owed as a result of a court case. Today in Parliament, health minister Tony Ryall was asked repeatedly whether the government would stump up the money to rescue those companies and ensure their staff could be paid. His response – repeated several times – was that “the liability lies with the provider”. In other words, the government is going to refuse to pay up, let these companies go bankrupt, and throw their clients out on the street.
The government is pretending it doesn’t have the money to do otherwise. Bullshit. As with their cuts to ECE, this is simply a question of priorities. And as there, National has decided that tax cuts to the elite few and ETS subsidies to their farmer mates come before essential health services for the disabled. And that’s National in a nutshell: screwing the many to give more to the few.
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This issue has arisen because IHC carers have won a court case over whether nighttime shifts constitute work. Apparently, they’re now owed half a billion in back pay and the ongoing wage bill will be$80 million more. IHC non-profit providers, which are mainly funded by the government, don’t have that kind of cash, while the government, which ultimately writes the IHC’s cheques, is washing its hands. Like I/S says, that’s a choice. The Nats have plenty of money for the rich in tax cuts, for ETS subsidies, for the SCF bailout but nothing for the disabled.
I actually don’t think I/S’s prediction is quite on the money. National can’t afford the political cost of kicking thousands of mentally disabled people out of home. What they can do is let the existing providers go bankrupt and have their operations bought up by corporate organisations like Mission Australia, who won’t have to pay the back wages and can employ the carers on worse terms. In China, they call it crisi-tunity.