Update on campaign against privatisation of disability services in NSW

Association members continue to be active in a community campaign to keep disability services in public hands.

On 11 March, the Hands off our Disability Services campaign was launched at a community forum held at Newcastle Panthers Club. Three hundred people turned up and the event generated significant interest in the media. Association and other union members and parents of ADHC clients were well represented in the audience.

The forum unanimously passed the following motion: “We vehemently oppose the (State) Goverment’s initiative to fully privatise ADHC and consequently we have lost faith in the Minister (Ajaka).”

One thing made clear at the forum was the Association’s absolute support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There is no question – we supported its introduction and the fundamental right of people with disabilities to choose where and how they live.

Yet the Minister and his minders continue to falsely portray our stance as anti-NDIS.

Our position is clear: we support the NDIS and we oppose the privatisation of disability services across the state. The NDIS does not require the privatisation of disability services – it is the O’Farrell Government’s ideological obsession with privatisation of public assets and stripping public sector workers of their basic industrial rights driving this agenda.

Under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NSW Enabling) Act 2013, the Minister has enormous powers as to how clients and staff are treated. Many guardians have been bombarded with Departmental hype and ministerial hyperbole but little information. Any information they have received indicates that this Government’s privatisation agenda will remove their current choice, namely to stay in a supportive public sector environment like Stockton Centre.

ADHC nurses and other staff are being treated with similar contempt. A Peak Union Consultative Forum regarding the implementation has met regularly over the last few months. Yet fundamental questions remain unanswered. These include:

1) How long will public sector wages and conditions be protected when you are transferred?

2) Do you have any say in where the Department transfers you? To date nothing has been ruled out: theoretically the Minister can transfer you from ADHC Stockton to SERCO (a non-government organisation) at Broken Hill;

3) How will clinical nursing skills be built into any transitional arrangements and what guarantees are there that clients will receive the level of nursing care they need and deserve?

The Association and other unions keep asking these fundamental questions and are told they are subject to deliberation by Government. It’s our sincere hope that Government representatives will be in a position to provide more answers by late May.