Another 16,000 injured workers stripped of NSW workers compensation benefits

david-shoebridge

The NSW government has stripped another 16,000 injured workers of  NSW workers compensation benefits, worth a combined $350 million, with their successful appeal to the High Court against Mr Ronald Goudappel a worker who crushed his foot and ankle at work, wrote David Shoebridge MLC on his website.

NSW Coalition deals a $350 million blow to injured workers

May 20, 2014  By David Shoebridge MLC

The NSW government has stripped another 16,000 injured workers of compensation benefits, worth a combined $350 million, with their successful appeal to the High Court against Mr Ronald Goudappel a worker who crushed his foot and ankle at work. This is the latest attack on injured workers by the NSW Coalition government and will, together with other brutal benefit cuts from 2012, see the scheme’s projected surplus hit close to $6 billion by 2019.

The High Court decision in Mr Goudappel’s case validated a regulation made by the NSW government and was handed down late last week. That regulation retrospectively removed the right of workers who had been injured before the 2012 benefit cuts to claim lump sum compensation for either pain and suffering or any increased impairment they had suffered.

See report in the SMH news report by our favourite journalist Anna Patty below.

david-shoebridgeGreens MP and Industrial Relations spokesperson David Shoebridge (pictured on the right) said:

“Another 16,000 injured workers have just lost compensation benefits in NSW, and collectively they have lost an estimated $350 million.

“All over this country Coalition governments are targeting and hurting the vulnerable and the powerless.

“Prior to this decision WorkCover’s own actuaries had estimated that the combination of far fewer benefits being paid by the scheme and improvements in the scheme’s investments were on track to deliver an embarrassing scheme surplus of some $5.5 billion by 2019.

“This latest decision will see WorkCover’s projected surplus run close to $6 billion in 5 years time, and this is $6 billion that should be returned to the injured workers that the scheme is meant to be protecting.

“In the last two years we have seen thousands and thousands of injured workers lose the right to income protection, medical benefits and lump sum compensation despite suffering often serious work injuries.

“After the so-called ‘reforms’ of 2012 even workers who have their whole foot amputated after an injury at work are not classified as “seriously injured” and are being cut off workers compensation.

“It is genuinely heartbreaking to hear the stories of people who have gone from a dignified life at work to a life of poverty and pain, simply because they were injured at work and the system no longer protects them.

“This is yet another act of meanness and dishonesty from the NSW Coalition who repeatedly told the public their amendments were not retrospective, while they argued the exact opposite in the High Court.

“We are calling for all political parties to join with the Greens and demand a return to a decent Workers Compensation scheme in NSW where injured workers are protected for their loss and not forced into poverty by a mean-spirited and deceitful government,” Mr Shoebridge said.

 

On that note, The NSW Government has finally opened a Review of the workers compensation changes that cut the rights of thousands of injured workers almost two years ago.the NSW Government has only put aside a few weeks to assess the impact of the NSW workers compensation cuts and it’s important that they hear the (injured) workers side of the story. Call for submissions have been made, for more information and how YOU can make a difference, head on over to our “Recent Project” section (aka Action).

Thousands of injured workers to miss out on lump sum compensation after High Court upholds WorkCover appeal

annapatty2by Anna Patty – SMH – May 20 2014

More than 16,000 people in NSW will not receive about $350 million in lump sum workers’ compensation payments as a result of a High Court decision that makes state government changes to the WorkCover scheme retrospective.

WorkCover accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated the state government will avoid paying $350 million to injured workers as a result of the successful High Court appeal.

WorkCover appealed a decision of the NSW Court of Appeal which late last year ruled in favour of Ronald Goudappel whose foot and ankle were crushed in a workplace accident involving a fork lift.

Mr Goudappel was injured before NSW introduced its legislation in June 2012 to slash benefits to injured workers, including amputees. Based on the Court of Appeal ruling, WorkCover had expected to pay about $350 million in outstanding claims to at least 16,000 people injured before June 19, 2012. It ruled out clawing back an additional $100 million in lump sum payments already made to people injured before the June 2012 cut-off.

Andrew Dent, the solicitor who represented Mr Goudappel, said former premier Barry O’Farrell had said the 2012 changes would not be retrospective. ”But here we are fighting to the death in the High Court over the retrospectivity of the changes,” he said.

Although Mr Goudappel was injured in 2011, he had not lodged a claim for compensation before June 19, 2012. He lodged his claim a day after the government rushed the changes through Parliament.

His injury was assessed at 6 per cent whole person impairment, which is under the new 10 per cent threshold. Based on the NSW Court of Appeal decision, he was expecting a lump sum payment of $8250, which he, like thousands of other people, will now be denied.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said based on PwC estimates tabled to NSW Parliament, the High Court decision ”will see WorkCover’s projected surplus run close to $6 billion in five years time, and this is $6 billion that should be returned to the injured workers that the scheme is meant to be protecting.

”In the last two years we have seen thousands and thousands of injured workers lose the right to income protection, medical benefits and lump sum compensation despite suffering often serious work injuries,” he said.

NSW Labor spokesman for Industrial Relations, Adam Searle, said the High Court decision ”flies in the face of assurances by this state government that the workers’ compensation changes would not affect those already injured before the new laws took effect”.

A spokesman for NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government had commissioned an independent review of the WorkCover scheme to determine if the 2012 changes were still appropriate.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/thousands-of-injured-workers-to-miss-out-on-lump-sum-compensation-after-high-court-upholds-workcover-appeal-20140519-38k4c.html#ixzz32ClThdGm

Report challenges plan to cut injured workers’ benefits

annapatty2By Anna Patty – SMH – 17 May 2014

A new report challenges the state government’s case for slashing compensation benefits to injured workers, including amputees.

In 2011 the government argued it needed to slash benefits to rein in a $4 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme.

But a report by WorkCover actuary PricewaterhouseCoopers tabled to the NSW Parliament reveals that without the changes introduced in 2012, the deficit was projected to fall to $2 billion next month and to $500 million in June 2018. In his report, PwC partner Michael Playford said the scheme could have approached ”full funding by 2021” without the 2012 changes.

The 2011 prediction of a $4 billion deficit was largely based on a temporary low-point in returns from yields as a result of the global financial crisis.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the PwC report showed the government’s case for slashing workers’ compensation benefits was ”masquerading as economic necessity”.

”Injured workers and their families will be furious to discover the flimsy rationale for the cuts that have so affected their ability to live with dignity after a work injury,” he said.

The PwC documents also show that by 2019 changes to the WorkCover scheme will leave it holding 55 per cent more in assets than it needs to meet its liabilities. Mr Shoebridge said this increase would deliver WorkCover a surplus of about $5 billion.

”There is obvious capacity and a need to significantly increase benefits to injured workers,” he said.

The parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover recently heard that an amputated foot was no longer considered a serious injury under the revised scheme. Under the changes, ongoing medical benefits are no longer provided for people needing prosthetic limbs or hearing aids.

Treasurer Andrew Constance has indicated the government is considering restoring medical benefits to amputees as part of its review of WorkCover, due to be finalised next month.

Ron Hammonds, 80, of Canterbury, who has lost two-thirds of his hearing after working near the constant noise of jack hammers, will need to shoulder the costs of replacing his hearing aids every three years at a price of about $8500. His wife, Lynette Hammonds, said he is ”quite anxious he won’t be able to afford it”.

Mrs Hammonds said the latest set of hearing aids received last year had allowed her husband to hear birds twittering for the first time in many years.

”He was missing out on a lot of conversation before he got them,” she said.

When asked about the latest PwC data on Thursday, Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet said the government would review the new data. It will also commission an independent statutory review of the 2012 changes to the scheme by the Centre for International Economics.

”The analysis is to determine whether the intentions of the amendments remain valid and if the terms of the Workers Compensation Act remain appropriate,” he said.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/report-challenges-plan-to-cut-injured-workers-benefits-20140516-38f0k.html#ixzz32Cp5dXpI

 



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5 Responses to “Another 16,000 injured workers stripped of NSW workers compensation benefits”

  1. I have to comment on this situation and the wider implications. Not only is it now clear that governments can ignore retrospectivity, they can get away with it. The ONLY way to change this is for people to rise up and let their representatives know they will not accept this – write letters and ring them. My mother went to the March in May on Sunday, she was on the train with a middle aged injured worker. The description of this injured worker was that she had on stylish clothes which were a few years old and a bit tatty, she also had a tooth missing but had tried to fix her hair to look nice and respectable, as Mum said to me she looked like she had been well off but was now struggling. She told Mum all about the horrendous things the O Farrell government had done to her (a very familiar tale for my Mum), she now had no job and did not know what the future held for her. Sadly she told Mum she found it hard to survive and frequently went into the city to beg.

    Now we have the review of Workers Comp being rushed through, Goudappel effectively knobbled and the most vicious budget changes being implemented by the Federal government. What are , we supposed to do? Give up? Victoria, NSW and Queensland are facing elections soon, we MUST use our influence to enact change for the betterment of injured workers. At the risk of being accused of being partisan, I am going to suggest that people do not vote for the LNP in any state. In NSW, we had a Workers Comp committee which recommended changes in 2011, those changes were awful and yet the O Farrell government with the help of Fred Nile made amendments which were so much worse. Before the Federal budget we were leaked proposals (Like retirement at 70 etc) which most people did not like, but when we got the budget, it was much, much worse and a lot of those cuts will dramatically affect injured workers (disability pension tightened up, cuts in funding to the states – yep WC will be hit with that one, co payments for doctors and medical treatment, increases in prescription costs and on and on). There is a pattern here and it is that whatever is promised beforehand will be broken and whatever you think the government will do, the reality is it will be much, much worse. I do not want to hear about how Labor is the same, (I don’t vote Labor) I do not want to hear bleats about how politics does not affect us (it does), I don’t care if you vote for a paper bag, just please don’t vote LNP as they have shown time and again in recent times that they will attack injured workers.

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  2. Hi Guys (and Girls of course).
    With the High court decision we have lost… but we may well have our hope up again as it may be possible to get the United Nation court involved as injured/disabled workers have been discriminated.

    Australia has signed some documents such as :
    1) The convention for the rights of persons with disabilities ( Australia has pledged to abide by it as part of an international treaty, therefore its content do apply in Australia).
    2) The anti-discrimination act 1992.
    3) Those “Modified Common Laws” are nothing else than breaches of:
    -The Australian constitution (as we should All be treated equally… and although it is not directly written in the constitution , it is implied , (which is why we had the big “SORRY” years ago….etc…),
    4) Also those “Modified Common Laws” are nothing else than breaches of: The Commonwealth Constitution (Yes it still applies here as we are still part of the Commonwealth and the constitution is the base/reference for our Constitution).
    5) the Changes to the workers compensation laws are clearly discriminating us and need to be reviewed as soon as possible with changes to be retrospective.
    We need a petition organised with a well written letter to the right department of the United Nation. WE need someone …may be from this site to lead the petition and the letter …what do you think? looking forward to read your ideas on the above.

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    Vincent Marty May 20, 2014 at 10:13 am
    • I agree with you totally Vincent. It may be an idea to contact the NSW Injured Workers Support Network with this idea as they have regular meetings of injured workers and would therefore be in a better position to organise this.

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      • Done! I sent them the same info, hoping someone will take up the flame and carry it proudly, for all of us, who cannot do so due to our injuries.

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        Vincent Marty May 20, 2014 at 4:51 pm
      • @Vincent – I would also suggest you contact David Shoebridge MP

        Also, comments on the NSW workers’ comp review are due soon (and close on 30 May 2014), which I urge all NSW injured workers (and their supporters) to actively participate in.

        The independent review of the draconian 2012 NSW workers’ compensation amendments will (allegedly) determine whether the changes had improved the welfare of the “most seriously injured workers” and if those changes made the scheme more financially sustainable, said the NSW State Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet last Friday.

        Apart from limiting the application of s66 of the 1987 Act (limit access to lump sum compensation to injured workers with a whole person impairment (WPI) of greater than 10 per cent. (No threshold existed before the change.) ), the amendments – as you all know- also capped many weekly and medical payments, halved the step-down periods and scrapped most of the journey claims.

        They did increase weekly benefits for injured workers with a WPI of more than (a whopping) 30 per cent.

        A spokesperson for Perrottet stated all stakeholders, including injured workers, were encouraged to comment on the amendments and what could be done to improve the NSW workers’ comp system.

        The statutory review is being conducted by the Centre for International Economics. To make a submission by 30 May., and please do, click here

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        Workcovervictim3 May 20, 2014 at 7:36 pm