Duncan Garner: Disabled workers need to be paid minimum wage

The AM Show 23/05/2019

It's 2019, a modern era where we fight against discrimination and yet, somehow disabled workers can be paid just $2.30 an hour.

It's appalling, and it's all entirely legal.

That's all that employers are legally obliged to pay.

The current rules mean they can employ disabled people in their factory or workshop and the pay is seen merely as a top up to the person's disability allowance.

For years it's been seen as giving someone a chance when they otherwise wouldn't get within cooee of a job.

Now Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni has stated the obvious - that paying someone just two bucks an hour to work is discriminatory and to me, it damn well looks like all of that and more.

It's bloody embarrassing to all of us.

What's worse, it appears the pay isn't always topped up by other benefits.

We've heard a story from one blind woman who untangles earphone cords who said she is on $2.30 an hour, and that's all she gets, no other allowances or benefits.

For her, it barely covers the cost of transport and is a far cry from the minimum wage of $17.70.

For me, this highlights an area we rarely discuss and we should.

New Zealand laws say we are not to discriminate in the workplace, yet this shows we do and have done for years.

On one hand, you could argue - for people with disabilities - a job on low pay may be better than no job at all.

But, if that woman was my daughter, I would want her at least to be paid with some dignity and a minimum wage at the very least.

I find it an embarrassingly dark secret.

However, for our prisoners, we have it right - they get paid 20-60 cents an hour, entirely appropriate if not a tad generous.

Duncan Garner is host of The AM Show.