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.
“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.
Thousands of injured workers to miss out on lump sum compensation after High Court upholds WorkCover appeal
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.
Report challenges plan to cut injured workers’ benefits
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.