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Underpaid disabled workers get fed payout

AAP logoAAP 16/12/2016 Jacqueline Le

Workers with a disability who were paid as little as 99 cents an hour under a federal government policy will receive thousands of dollars in back pay thanks to a settlement worth more than $100 million.

The Federal Court on Friday approved the class action settlement between workers and the Commonwealth over its wages policy for employees with a disability.

The settlement was reached in December 2015 but was subject to court approval.

"This brings to an end a very long-running battle," Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Josh Bornstein told reporters outside court.

The battle against the federal government's discriminatory wages policy began more than a decade ago.

It was a fight that took place in court, in parliament and in the public sphere, Mr Bornstein said on Friday.

"It's been a David and Goliath battle ... and the most unusual battle I've ever been involved with."

Friday's Federal Court ruling ends a class action launched in 2013 on behalf of lead plaintiff Tyson Duval-Comrie.

In the lawsuit Maurice Blackburn argued the assessment tool used to set the wages of workers at Australian Disability Enterprises - which are funded by the federal government - discriminated against people with intellectual disabilities.

The underpayment was happening despite a Federal Court ruling in another case in 2012 which found the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) was discriminatory and contravened the Disability Discrimination Act.

Disability advocate Kairsty Wilson says some government-funded disability enterprises had opposed the class action and instigated a scare campaign which claimed workers would lose their jobs.

"(But) the viability of the Australian Disability Enterprises is not an issue at all," she told reporters.

About 10,000 affected workers will be compensated as a result of Friday's settlement.

The BSWAT was amended in March to increase payments to disabled workers.

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