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Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP)

Speeches in Parliament
Rachel Siewert 10 May 2011

Senator Siewert  asked the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, upon notice, on 29 November 2010:
I would like to clarify the employment and working conditions for Aboriginal workers employed under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP), including under what conditions participants in Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program, traineeships or work-for-the-dole programs may be employed. I have received some disturbing reports from communities in central Australia of the inconsistent treatment of Aboriginal workers.
The main allegations I have heard are:

• Aboriginal workers on CDEP or on income management being promised top-up pay that they do not receive or fully receive.

• Inconsistent and diminishing rates of top-up pay for workers, so that workers continuously employed to do the same work for the same number of hours a day receive less pay in subsequent pay packets.

• A failure to provide pay slips, employment contracts or other documentation to Aboriginal workers.

• A failure to report on employment outcomes to Job Services Australia (JSA) providers.

• Minimal training (e.g. 1 day) for extended periods of work (e.g. 3 to 4 months).

• Aboriginal contractors being asked to include CDEP places to reduce costs, and receiving less work when they refuse to do so.

• Different workers doing the same work side-by-side, but receiving vastly different pay.

• Over subscription of CDEP workers for the amount of work required (e.g. 15 or 20 put on to do the work of 5 to 6 full-time workers) with the expectation that a number will drop out (and are effectively forced to do so).

I am concerned that, if some or all of these allegations are true, they are undermining the positive employment outcomes that could be achieved by the significant opportunity provided by SIHIP, therefore:

(1) What proportion of jobs on SIHIP is made up of CDEP workers. 
(2) Can a breakdown be provided, by community, of the number of Indigenous SIHIP workers: (a) on grandfathered CDEP payments; (b) in receipt of CDEP via Basics Card; (c) on other work experience programs; (d) being paid real wages; and (e) who received top-up wages, including the amount received.
(3) How is it that the promised 'real jobs for real wages' under SIHIP are subject to income management.
(4) Which organisations pay CDEP participants who are employed on SIHIP or SIHIP ancillary jobs.
(5) (a) Can the accreditation requirements, workplace agreements and remuneration standards that are required by contractors who are providing construction or maintenance services under SIHIP be clarified; and (b) can an explanation be provided as to how these apply to organisations that are providing CDEP placements, traineeships or work-for-the-dole programs. 
(6) Can Aboriginal organisations or organisations employing Aboriginal workers be required to provide a certain number of CDEP places.
(7) If there are accredited Aboriginal contractors willing and able to do construction or maintenance work, can and should they be excluded in favour of CDEP workers.
(8) What are the arrangements concerning top-up pay for workers who are on income support and having their income managed under the Northern Territory Emergency Response.
(9) Are companies providing training or managing CDEP or work-for-the-dole programs required to clearly inform workers up-front as to how many hours they can work and how much top-up money they will be paid.
(10) Should the amount of top-up pay decrease over time. 
(11) If there are changes to top-up arrangements or numbers of hours worked, are organisations required to inform workers beforehand.
(12) What can workers do if they believe they have worked a significant number of hours for which they have not been paid.
(13) (a) What are the contractual obligations of Community Enterprises Australia (CEA) and New Future Alliance under SIHIP; and (b) are they required to report on employment outcomes, number of hours worked, rates of pay etc.
(14) What remedy is there for JSA providers who have referred participants to CEA and/or SIHIP but have not received placement or outcome fees due to a lack of reporting.
(15) Which other communities who are in receipt of SIHIP housing or renovations also have, or will have, CDEP and work experience participants working on them.
(16) What action, if any, is the Government taking to remedy: (a) the underpayment of CDEP workers; (b) the lack of placement or outcome fees for referring JSA providers due to inadequate outcomes reporting by CEA; or (c) the loss of potential wages to Aboriginal contractors paying Aboriginal workers real wages for doing real work, who were overlooked in favour of the cheaper CDEP or work experience option. 
(17) In regard to the CDEP program: (a) what proportion of available CDEP positions are now being taken up; and (b) can the latest data be provided on ex-CDEP participants, including: (i) the total number, (ii) how many ex-participants have jobs, and (iii) how many are on income support.
Senator Arbib:  The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:
(1) Employment of CDEP workers in SIHIP is limited to the New Future Alliance 3A package. At 22 November 2010, of the 58 Indigenous people employed in this package 17 were on CDEP. Across SIHIP this represented 4.9 per cent of the total Indigenous employment recorded across the program at that time.
(2) (a) and (b) As of 3 December 2010, there were 24 CDEP participants working on the SIHIP program at three locations:

Grandfathered CDEP participants, on CDEP wages, are those listed as 'continuing participants'.
New CDEP participants receive income support, are subject to income management and will be issued with a basics card. However, no CDEP participants are paid via the basics card. As at 3 December 2010, there were 19 CDEP participants receiving income support.  
(c) Alliance partners do not employ workers under the Work for the Dole or work experience programs. However, in some locations with larger capital works packages, the Alliances assist Job Services Australia and other employment providers to run work experience or pre-employment programs with provision of tools and materials. 
(d) All new participants, noted in (2)(a) above, are paid real wages at award rates for every hour worked.  
(e) Continuing participants as noted in (2)(a) above, receive top-up payments for hours worked in excess of the 15 hours (on average) covered by CDEP wages. The actual amount of top-up paid depends on the number of hours worked over and above the first 15 hours (on average). At 3 December 2010, there were five continuing participants involved in SIHIP.  
(3) Where a CDEP participant is classified as 'new', that is they commenced on CDEP after 1 July 2009, they participate on the program in receipt of income support. This change was part of the reforms to the CDEP program to ensure that incentive and participation requirements of CDEP participants were aligned with other Indigenous job seekers. As with other income support recipients, all wages earned from employment must be declared to Centrelink. All new participants will have a participation obligation under CDEP, however, this does not preclude them from obtaining part-time employment such as through SIHIP. Payment for all work with SIHIP is paid at or above award rates and is not subject to income management. Continuing participants, that is those on CDEP wages, are not subject to income management.  
(4) There are four CDEP provider organisations that are paid by the New Future Alliance for part-time work undertaken on SIHIP. These CDEP providers then pay relevant participants at the award hourly rates. The four providers are: Central Desert Shire Council, Community Enterprises Australia Ltd (Alice Springs), Tangentyere Council Incorporated and Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre Aboriginal Corporation.
(5)(a) Funding for SIHIP works, under NPARIH, requires contracted organisations constructing houses and refurbishment/rebuilds to be compliant with all relevant Australian Government and Northern Territory Government legislation/regulations. 
The Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government also requires that all works meet quality standards as described in the Building Code of Australia and that housing design and amenity complies with the Nation Indigenous Housing Guide. Compliance with Federal Safety Commissioner (FSC) is also mandated. 
Alliance partners must meet all relevant industrial relations legislation as they are the employer of an individual. They may also contract parts of the work to smaller subcontractors who will have similar employer obligations. In addition, subcontractors working in the building and construction sector in the Northern Territory are also required to be Contractor Accreditation Limited (CAL) compliant. To obtain CAL accreditation contractors must:

• Commit to work to the industry code of practice for the building and construction industry; 

• Agree to abide by government requirements in areas such as industrial regulations, work health and training;

• Provide full and accurate information regarding their business structure, resources and past performance;

• Agree to an assessment of their financial capability by an independent financial consultant; and  

• Agree to CAL staff obtaining information regarding their business activities from other parties.  

CDEP providers must also ensure that work experience employers comply with all relevant laws, industrial agreements and instruments (part of the CDEP Funding Agreement). 
(b) Alliance partners do not employ workers under the Work for the Dole or work experience programs. However, in some locations with larger capital works packages, the Alliances assist Job Services Australia and other employment providers to run work experience or pre-employment programs with provision of tools and materials. CDEP Work Experience Agreements are not applicable for periods under 13 weeks. As short-term refurbishment packages are usually two to twelve weeks CDEP participants were provided under a labour hire arrangement rather than a Work Experience Agreement. 
Where the CDEP participant has been directly employed, safety and workplace requirements are incorporated into their training. A CDEP participant's wages are consistent with the award under which they are employed as it is for other non-CDEP employees. 
In the case of the labour hire arrangements in package 3A in the Southern Refurbishments, Community Enterprises Australia are providing the labour to New Future Alliance. New Future Alliance undertakes training of the participant ensuring that all OH&S and safety requirements are met. Community Enterprises Australia remains the employer for the participant, ensuring all relevant industrial requirements are met. In addition, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Service and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) monitors compliance of CDEP providers to all aspects of their funding agreements.      
(6) No, there is no requirement to guarantee a certain number of places for CDEP workers.
(7) No, accredited Aboriginal contractors are not excluded in favour of CDEP workers. Accredited Aboriginal contractors are also able to employ CDEP participants, similar to any other employer. Alliances have subcontracted work to 13 local Indigenous businesses including –Thamarrurr Development Corporation, and Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island Enterprises (GEBIE Civil & Construction). 
(8) New participants (those on income support) on the CDEP program who obtain part-time work with a SIHIP employer must declare all earnings to Centrelink. Income received from working (wages) is not income managed but may impact on the participant's income support which is subject to income management. 
(9) Before placing new and continuing participants with a Work Experience Employer, CDEP providers must execute a Work Experience Agreement with the Work Experience Employer. This Work Experience Agreement details the pay and conditions on which the CDEP participants are engaged and must be signed by the CDEP participants. For the short-term placements under the labour hire arrangement, the hours a participant works are negotiated between the CDEP provider, SIHIP employer and the individual. All hours worked are paid at or above award rate.
(10) Only continuing CDEP participants are eligible to receive top-up pay. The CDEP provider will pay CDEP wages to the continuing participant for, on average, the first 15 hours worked per week. Any additional hours worked must be paid by the employer, in this case New Future Alliance. These hours will be paid at award rates and would be considered 'top-up'. Pay for 'top-up' is dependent on the hours per week worked – if hours decrease, top-up pay decreases and if hours increase, top-up pay increases. 
(11) Yes.
(12) In the first instance, a worker should raise the query with their local CDEP manager. The Government will investigate any claim made that workers are not being fairly remunerated.
(13) (a) Community Enterprises Australia is a CDEP provider and has no contractual obligations under SIHIP. It has an agreement with New Future Alliance to provide labour hire personnel. Their contracts are commercial-in-confidence but include amounts for workers compensation, superannuation and administration costs.  
(b) Yes, both the CDEP provider and the Alliance Partner have separate reporting requirements with regard to Indigenous employment and keep records of all hours worked and paid for CDEP participants. 
As a CDEP provider, Community Enterprises Australia must record and report all participants against relevant activities. Under their labour hire arrangement, this includes signed time sheets. Community Enterprises Australia would submit outcome claims for all employment outcomes.
New Future Alliance reports to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Regional Services in the Northern Territory on employment information. This information includes – number of indigenous employees, hours worked and training participation. 
(14) It is a requirement under the CDEP funding agreement and JSA deed, that all CDEP and JSA providers must enter into Service Level Agreements (SLA) where they service the same locations. The SLA should outline how the two providers will jointly service their shared participants, including communications and reporting between the two parties. If a JSA provider feels the SLA is not being honoured they can raise the matter with their Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) contract manager who will liaise with the relevant CDEP agreement manager in FaHCSIA.
(15) Please refer to (2)(a). 
(16) (a) The Government will investigate any claim made that workers are not being fairly remunerated. FaHCSIA's investigations have shown that to date CDEP participants working on SIHIP are being remunerated appropriately. In order to address confusion around CDEP participants undertaking short-term employment with a SIHIP employer, FaHCSIA has advised CDEP providers that any placement with a SIHIP employer that is not under a formal Work Experience Agreement, that is for placements of less than 13 weeks, the CDEP participant must be exited from the program.
(b) Please refer to (14).
(c) FaHCSIA is not aware of any specific information about potential losses to Aboriginal contractors. Any complaints should be directed to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Regional Services in the Northern Territory.
(17) (a) At 30 November 2010, a total of 10,400 participants were active on the CDEP program out of the 14,891 available places (69.84 per cent).
(b) (i) The total number of exits from the CDEP program between 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2010 was 12,897. The total number of program exits between 1 July 2010 and 30 Nov 2010 was 6,421. These exits are for multiple reasons and include multiple episodes of participation for the same people.
(ii) Between 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2010:

• 2,253 initial employment outcomes have been claimed;

• 1,822 thirteen week outcomes have been claimed; and

• 1,308 twenty-six week outcomes have been claimed. 

• Between 1 July 2010 and 30 November 2010:

• 934 initial employment outcomes have been claimed;


• 605 thirteen week outcomes have been claimed;

• 482 twenty-six week outcomes have been claimed; and

• 727 fifty-two week outcomes have been claimed.

(iii) Of the 19,318 exits from the CDEP program since 1 July 2009 it is not possible to report how many of these are currently in employment or on income support. 


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