Support for workers with disabilities after contract loss

National MP Sarah Dowie speaks at the meeting in Invercargill yesterday. Photo: Luisa Girao
National MP Sarah Dowie speaks at the meeting in Invercargill yesterday. Photo: Luisa Girao
Families of Southland disAbility Enterprises (SDE) workers are overwhelmed by the support from the community after the company lost its recycling contract with WasteNet.

In just one week since SDE announced it would lose the contract, 3000 people had signed an existing petition which urged councils to renew SDE’s contract and allow people with disabilities to remain in employment.

The document, originally launched by Rochelle Stewart in January, had now been signed by a total of almost 18,000 people.

Mrs Stewart said although they were amazed by all the support, they wanted more.

At a meeting in the SDE office in Invercargill yesterday, families called for a plan of action.

Gary Tong
Gary Tong

With the help of National MP Sarah Dowie, they created a strategy to be ‘‘as loud as possible’’.

Mrs Stewart said posters and banners would be created for businesses which wanted to lend support to put in their windows.

Invercargill Ratepayer Advocacy Group spokesman Nobby Clark suggested they speak at the next council meeting.

‘‘It is talking about the human element, the social impact.’’

Ms Dowie suggested they email all councillors to raise awareness.

A public march is also planned.

Mrs Stewart said WasteNet’s decision would affect the lives of almost 90 employees with disabilities, and their families.

‘‘It is about social responsibility. They love their job and want to keep doing it.’’

Last week, SDE chose to break confidentiality to inform staff and stakeholders the contract for WasteNet -formed by the Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council and Gore District Council - would most likely not be renewed with them.

Southland Mayor and WasteNet spokesman Gary Tong said he was disappointed with the breach of confidentiality, and said the process ‘‘was still very much alive.’’

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