Vision Australia announced on May 6 that it will slash more than 130 jobs. This includes cutting 90 jobs in Victoria and the closing of three regional offices.
Nearly 20% of the people who have lost their jobs either have a vision impairment or are legally blind.
Vision Australia is a not-for-profit company providing services to help vision-impaired people.
Its radio station provides readings from various sources such as newspapers, magazines, and books.
Vision Australia CEO Gerald Menses told ABC radio on May 6 that the job losses were due to a fall in funding. He said funding had been cut by $13 million in the past six months, due to a decline in investment income amid the economic crisis. He said the sackings were needed to "maximise efficiencies".
A May 6 News.com.au report quoted one sacked blind worker who said the day "started with free coffee from management, then a fleet of hire cars — black — pulled up in the driveway, then the slaughter began. No other way to describe it".
Another staff member said: "Leaving staff [were] not allowed to talk to other staff and we've been told to get on with our work and not talk to others in the building."
The company was awarded national disability employer of the year in 2006 under the Howard government.
Regardless of the economic crisis, it is absolutely essential to maintain social services such as Vision Australia for people with visual impairments and blindness. The government could step in to save these jobs and ensure the services continue, if it had the political will. To fail to do so is a travesty.