Injured workers will no longer be able to claim their legal costs in WorkCover disputes even if they win, due to 11th hour amendments to the government’s new workers compensation laws, reports the Sydney Morning Herald today. This will devastate many injured workers – and for what? So the O’Farrell Government can suck up and impress corporate Australia!!!???
WorkCover NSW amendments won’t cover legal costs – barbaric
The government was also forced to back down during a marathon debate on the laws in the early hours of yesterday morning and allow firefighters and paramedics to be exempt, despite the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, earlier lashing the firefighter’s strike on Thursday as among the most ”most irresponsible actions … by a public sector union in the history of this state” and refusing to compromise.
The emergency services’ exemption was welcomed as a bittersweet win by unions yesterday, but other amendments were lambasted, such as the removal of an injured worker’s right to claim their legal costs even when they win a dispute.
The new laws cap benefits and medical expenses for injured workers and do not cover journey claims, except where it can be proved the injury had ”a real and substantial connection” to the person’s work.
Mr O’Farrell said yesterday’s laws would prevent the scheme from becoming financially unviable, rein in a $4 billion deficit, and would actually offer better protection to the most seriously injured workers.
”With premiums in NSW already between 20 per cent and 60 per cent higher than in Victoria and Queensland, any increase would only have driven more businesses and more jobs interstate,” he said.
The Fire Brigade Employees’ Union claimed victory yesterday over its strike on Thursday, the first in 56 years, but said it was angry other workers would be subject to the laws.
”We had no choice [but to strike]; the government tabled this legislation two days ago, there was no chance for consultation,” said the union secretary, Jim Casey.
A Greens amendment calling for firefighters and paramedics to join police in being exempt from the laws was supported at 2am by the opposition, the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Christian Democrats, with the government then forced to support it in the lower house just before 3am to see the legislation pass.
Other unions yesterday cried foul over the laws exempting only some workers and not others .
Steve Butler, the branch secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, said his members often performed dangerous first-response tasks in accidents involving power lines and were regularly at risk in poor weather.
”Their jobs are risky at best, but when they’re working around large mains in inclement weather and storms they are at even higher risk,” he said.