Ruth Dyson recieves a gong for her services to disabled people.

Good Lord.

The minister who forced the minimum wage on sheltered workshops in 2005.

Image credit The BFD.

She was warned about the effect but bullocked on. 

Here’s a report from my local paper (when it was still worth reading):

Packworx Limited, a Hutt company that provided paid employment to 23 people with intellectual disabilities, closed its doors on Monday last week.

Packworx has been run as a limited liability company since September 2005, and prior to this was part of the Hutt Valley Disabled Resources Trust, which operated as a sheltered workshop for about 20 years.

The split off into commercial and social support entitIes was forced by the then Labour Government’s repeal of the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act (1960). It required workshop operations to pay workers the minimum wage and holiday entitlements for reasons of fairness, but also so that they did not undercut other commercial operations pursuing packaging and other small, labour-intensive contracts on price.

Parents and others warned at the time that while the philosophy behind repeal of the Act might be all very fine, the requirement to pay minimum wages to people with intellectual disabilities would place even more of a burden on an operation already on a revenue/cost knife edge.

Packworx chairperson of directors Carolyn Crutch said last week that the downturn in the economy, plus “non-realisation of contracts that were anticipated” meant it was no longer financially prudent for the company to continue to trade.

Fellow director Marlene Wilkinson said it was a step taken with “a great deal of reluctance”.

There was “huge emotional attachment” bound up in running of the business and keeping the 23 employees, plus long-time manager Jan Geursen and two other supervisors, in work. But as Packworx was being run as a commercial entity “we have to abide by the Companies Act and its rules”. Revenue wasn’t going to cover overheads.

MAJOR BLOW

David Vance and Barry Jordan of Deloitte have been appointed liquidators.

Mrs Crutch said it was a “major blow” that this happened now, right at a time when the former staff will be up against many others laid off work in a depressed job market.

The Hutt News reported in 2006, that the then Packworx staff of 60 tackled a variety of packing, mailing and shrink wrapping contracts – everything from cutlery for Air NZ to lining bulk laundry powder cartons. The mainstay of the work was the making of 60,000 bird seed balls a month for Masterpet, as well as packing millet sticks and for the dog food market, pigs’ ears. Right up until last week, Packworx still had work from Masterpet. “We needed more contracts like that,” Mrs Wilkinson said.

The Hutt Valley Disabled Resources Trust, a separate entity, is not affected. However, it’s likely that a good number of the former Packworx employees will be eligible to come onto the trust’s arts, sports, gardening, life skills and social programmes. Mrs Wilkinson said “down the track”, training opportunities for some of the former workers could be explored.

Trust general manager Susan Gray said WINZ has already met with the Packworx staff to discuss benefit and future training options. The HVDRT will be making available its premises in Woburn Rd so that those staff can continue to meet with WINZ, Housing NZ and representatives of other help agencies.

At the time that Labour announced it was repealing legislation covering sheltered workshops, around 3,000 people around New Zealand were employed in the sector. Mrs Gray said some workshops closed immediately and a good number of others shut up shop when the legislation came into full effect on 1 December last year.

There are some entities that continue to run semi-commercial operations employing people with intellectual disabilities, including in Invercargill and the Waikato. 

However, most are “not entirely commercial” like Packworx, with many of the survivors benefiting from contracts dealing with recycling from local authorities.

The Hutt News could not contact Mr Geursen, whose personal drive is credited with much of the success of the sheltered workshop/Packworx over many years.  We understand he is currently overseas.

HUTT NEWS, Simon Edwards.

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Dyson Deserves Diddly Squat
Reproduced with permission

Reproduced with permission

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