The dreaded and harsh legislation to reform the SA workers’ compensation has passed the South Australian Parliament on 30 Oct 2014, and will come into effect in July 2015. Greens MLC Tammy Franks, rightly, condemned the SA workers’ compensation changes as an attack on injured workers and refers to the new ‘Return to Work Bill’ as a ‘Harder to Return to Work’ Bill.
Workers’ compensation reform passed by SA Parliament
Updated Fri 31 Nov 2014 | ABC
Legislation to reform workers’ compensation in South Australia has passed Parliament, with the Government promising levies for the business sector will fall by $180 million annually.
Industrial Relations Minister John Rau said SA had the lowest return to work rate in Australia and the current WorkCover scheme had been failing injured workers.
He promised no-one would be worse off under the new scheme, which would take effect from next July.
“The Return to Work scheme will provide intensive case management right from the start and injured workers will be intensively supported to return to employment,” he said.
Premier Jay Weatherill said the revised scheme would achieve savings for taxpayers.
“These reforms are necessary, the scheme was old and clumsy and it was failing workers,” he said.
“It did not provide good health outcomes and was expensive”.
“I think we were able to persuade the overwhelming majority of the South Australian community that this was both fair and crucially affordable.”
Greens condemn budget bottom line argument
Greens MLC Tammy Franks condemned the workers’ compensation changes as an attack on workers.
“Time and time again in the debate, the Government pointed only to the budget bottom line as evidence for their regressive reforms,” she said.
“It’s no surprise that even a Labor backbencher MP [Stephanie Key] dubbed this bill ‘draconian’.
“Of course, the strength of Labor Party discipline meant even she voted for it in the end.”
During debate on the bill Ms Key argued it would become harder for injured workers to gain access to workers’ compensation.
“[The bill] is designed to reduce employer premiums at the expense of injured workers and their entitlements, rather than [make] genuine improvements in the scheme,” she said.
It said the definition of a seriously injured worker was unfair.
The new scheme will end compensation payments after two years for people deemed not to be seriously injured.
SA Unions said it was happy with the major changes, including ensuring minimum wage protection and full payment of wages for a year after an injury.
But unions president Jamie Newlyn said some areas still needed addressing.
“A person needs to be really catastrophically injured to receive any sort of lifetime entitlement or support and we believe that threshold is too high,” he said.
“In relation to suing negligent employers, again only if you’re catastrophically injured can you sue your employer.”
Business SA board chairman Vincent Tremaine said the changes were good news for employers and would help reduce their costs.
“Although there are some aspects of the legislation such as common law that we would prefer not to have, overall it is a package of legislative reform that will deliver not only real savings for employers, but also assist workers to return to the workplace more quickly,” he said.
The Liberal Opposition backed the Government’s changes through the Parliament.
The Government said workers’ compensation covered 430,000 South Australians employed in about 50,000 businesses.
Labor Put Budget Bottom Line Before Injured Workers
Thursday, Oct 30th, 2014
The Weatherill Labor Government and the Liberals today 930 Oct 2014) voted to worsen conditions for injured workers with claims under WorkCover.
Greens Industrial Relations Spokesperson Tammy Franks MLC said: “The Weatherill Labor Government has again set the bar low when it comes to the protection of injured workers’ rights”.
“This Bill isn’t a ‘Return to Work Bill’ but a ‘Harder to Return to Work’ Bill,”
“This legislation looks like Tory legislation, but sadly is the creation of the current Labor Government. Little wonder the Liberal Leader of the Opposition told people to vote Labor; they are getting the workers compensation legislation a Liberal Government would likely have introduced.
“Time and time again in the debate the Government pointed only to the budget bottom line as evidence for their regressive reforms. It’s no surprise that even a Labor backbencher MP (Steph Key) dubbed this Bill ‘draconian’, although of course the strength of Labor party discipline meant even she voted for it in the end.
“Yes WorkCover is buggered, and it was the Labor Government that presided over that since 2008. Now, rather than seeking to rehabilitate WorkCover, they are adding insult to injury with this attack on injured workers’ rights.
The changes supported by Labor and Liberal in this Bill now:
- Make it harder for injured workers to qualify for WorkCover injury thresholds;
- Limit injured workers’ compensation to two years;
- Terminate medical expenses for injured workers after 12 months; and
- Discriminate against those who suffer from psychological trauma.
“Sadly, this Government continues to treat South Australian workers as claims rather than people. It remains to be seen how working Australians will treat Labor as a result.” Ms. Franks concluded.
The Greens amendments were supported by Independent John Darley MLC and Dignity for Disability’s Kelly Vincent MLC.
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