It is so easy to do harm while thinking you’re doing good. In today’s edition: exemptions from minimum wages for severely disabled workers.
There’s a dignity in work. For some severely disabled people, the work they can provide simply is not worth anything close to $15 dollars per hour to anyone else, but the work is extremely valuable to them. Work is a social environment. And it brings meaning.
Labour killed off sheltered workshops back in 2007 when it repealed the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act. But they maintained a process where employers could apply to pay less than the minimum wage to workers limited by disabilities. They’re not much used: Radio NZ reports 817 permits were granted as of last October.
And now there’s talk of removing that exemption. It’s a terrible idea. Most of the damage was done when Labour killed the sheltered workshops, so the extra damage this would do is proportionately smaller. But it would matter a lot to the hundreds of people whose employment will be killed.
It’s easy to make a rights-based argument combined with a fair bit of wishful thinking:
But Sacha O’Dea of the Ministry of Social Development said the permit scheme treated people with disabilities differently from other New Zealand citizens.
“It’s not in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
The convention recognised the right of people with disabilities to have the opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that was open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities.
Ms O’Dea said the exemption permit was also out of step with modern thinking about disability which focussed on what people could do, with support, rather than a deficit model of what they couldn’t do.
Boy, that sounds nice.
If MSD wants to get those workers up to minimum wage by providing them with a wage subsidy, that’s great. But the rest of it falls pretty cleanly into the category of feeling good and doing harm.