WorkCover NSW has seemingly “clarified” the alarming cost of workers’ compensation claims for stress, industrial deafness and musculoskeletal disorders in a publication called “Occupational Disease and Wellbeing Strategy 2011-2015″, and outlined what they plan to do to “help employers reduce them”-oh what a lovely way of phrasing it, eh! Part of their strategy is to develop and coordinate compliance programs such as the Bullying Prevention Compliance Strategy…
WorkCover NSW plan to reduce high workers’ compensation costs
According to the Occupational Disease and Wellbeing Strategy -WorkCover NSW 2011-2015, the number of claims for occupational diseases in NSW is increasing, and the average cost of a disease claim is twice that of a claim for an injury.
According to the publication, between 2007 and 2010 there were:
- more than 17,000 claims, at an average cost of $19,600 per claim, for mental disorders such as work-related stress, anxiety and depression;
- more than 4000 claims, with an average cost of more than $36,400, for musculoskeletal disorders, including inflammatory and degenerative conditions;
- more than 9400 claims, at an average cost of more than $46,600, for occupational noise-induced hearing loss;
- more than 500 claims, at an average cost of nearly $60,000, for occupational cancers such as mesothelioma, melanoma and leukaemia; and
- more than 1300 claims, at an average cost of nearly $43,000, for work-related diseases of the respiratory system, including asthma, hypersensitivity to organic dusts and conditions related to breathing in chemicals, gases, fumes and vapours.
WorkCover NSW said that, in order to “reduce the number of claims and their costs over the next few years” WorkCover would provide employers with “expert technical advice for complaints, investigations, verifications, technical standards, risk assessment and workplace assessment”. [How interesting!]
WorkCoverNSW also states it would also develop protocols to investigate occupational diseases and focus on high-risk groups such as women performing hazardous tasks, young workers as well as ageing workers, new migrant workers and also illiterate workers or those with poor literacy skills.
What’s more, WorkCover NSW states they would also develop and coordinate compliance programs such as the Bullying Prevention Compliance Strategy, which aimed to prevent bullying in high-risk sectors of government, retail, cafes, clubs and manufacturing. [Perhaps on a more sarcastic note, we note that WorkCover NSW and WorkSafe Victoria failed to address their own sector, which has been the recent media and even parliamentary focus of rather frequent internal bullying! ]
Oh, and they also plan of “changing workplace culture”….
WORKCOVER STAFF BULLYING ALLEGATIONS
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [5.18 p.m.]: I raised in this House on 28 October 2008 a Public Service Association survey that revealed a significant number of WorkCover staff had had suicidal thoughts due to bullying and harassment. On 23 November 2007 the Daily Telegraph published an article “Watch Dog Bites its own Staff”, documenting that 86 per cent of WorkCover staff surveyed nominated their own boss as the culprit. In a recent WorkCover corporate survey, 20 per cent of staff indicated “it is almost always true that the organisation is a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work”, only 29 per cent agreed that management is honest and ethical in its business dealings and only 24 per cent believe management is competent at running the business.
I understand staff will not report bullying and harassment to WorkCover’s Human Resources Branch, headed by Miss Moira Heath, because they will be persecuted. When one considers the vicious and unethical way Miss Heath and Mr David Clark, Manager of WorkCover’s Employee Relations, have treated whistleblowers and other employees, is it any wonder? Serious allegations of misconduct against the Chief Executive Officer of WorkCover, Mr Jon Blackwell, continue to arise, including allegedly committing perjury at a budget estimates committee hearing, failing to comply with government directives on senior executive service cuts, victimising whistleblowers and approaching insurance companies tendering for WorkCover agent contracts to contribute funds to fulfil his desire to travel to Nepal.
I have outlined previously how WorkCover General Manager Miss Vicki Telfer was terrorising workers, and regularly swearing and intimidating officers. Such conduct brings WorkCover into disrepute and undermines the public’s confidence in the organisation. Minister Joe Tripodi has done nothing to address these matters. Unless he acts to address the continuing trouble at WorkCover, this House should consider intervening and holding a committee inquiry into its operations.
An Industrial Relations Commission statement of decision in Public Service Association v WorkCover NSW dated 19 December 2008 documents more disturbing conduct by Mr Blackwell and his cohorts. The case involved a member of WorkCover’s Public Service Association departmental committee whom I shall refer to as Mr M, a young family man with a wife and children to support. Mr Blackwell and a “close friend” of his, Miss Melayne Williamson, spitefully pursued Mr M. Several years ago Mr M beat Miss Williamson for the presidency of WorkCover’s social club. When he subsequently became treasurer of the club Mr M was subjected to a campaign of vilification.
The statement indicates that Miss Williamson approached Mr Blackwell and the director of WorkCover’s internal audit unit, Mr Greg Byrne. Despite WorkCover having no jurisdiction over the social club, Mr Blackwell proceeded to order a disciplinary investigation into Mr M’s management of the club’s funds. Mr M was immediately demoted from an acting grade 8 position to a grade 1/2 position, resulting in the loss of a significant amount of money. The commission notes that on 8 April 2008 Mr Byrne and Miss Williamson went to Mr M’s desk and without his permission removed all financial records of the social club. The commission naturally found that Miss Williamson was “not authorised” to access Mr M’s desk drawer, nor was she authorised to confiscate the records and give them to others. The commission subsequently ordered WorkCover to cease its investigation.
Mr Blackwell used thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money to pursue his vendetta against Mr M. His decision against Mr M was based on improper grounds. Mr Blackwell’s conduct is shameful in the extreme and amounts to serious maladministration. I understand that WorkCover is currently defending a case before the Industrial Relations Commission involving “victimisation” of another officer. It will be interesting to see whether Mr Blackwell and his cohorts continue with the persecution of this officer and waste more public funds. I will watch the case with interest.
I am astounded at the power Miss Williamson wielded over Mr Blackwell. Despite having limited qualifications, she is now the executive officer of Mr Blackwell’s office. WorkCover has regularly breached its own and New South Wales Government’s recruitment policies, and the evidence shows that there is little regard to merit selection principles at WorkCover. Only 16 per cent of staff surveyed believe promotions go to those who most deserve them. I call upon Minister Tripodi to act to end the continued disgraceful conduct of WorkCover’s executive and others who are clearly unfit to hold office in the public service.
Transcript of the above can be seen online (Hansard) here : http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20090401042
It would be interesting to obtain, under the Freedom of Information Act, the number of workers compensation claims submitted by WorkCover NSW staff… and see whether there would be scope “to contain THOSE claim associated costs”.