Draconian SA Workers’ compensation reform passed Parliament

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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.

The Law Society previously criticised the injury threshold under the changes.

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.

 

[Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-30/workers-compensation-changes-passed-sa-parliament/5854806]

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.

[Source: http://greens.org.au/node/6373]



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4 Responses to “Draconian SA Workers’ compensation reform passed Parliament”

  1. Being in the South Australian Work cover system for over 7 years, as a no choice injured participant. I do not think it could get any worse, you cannot make bad badder. It also does not help with the Greens (I call communists in Greens Drag, who are anti everything, industry etc, who are also happy to let every one come to Australia to burden the tax payer even more) wading in and jumping up and down, just for the attention or votes. I must admit I have not read all of the changes but it seems to be the same just worded differently(typical government like to waste money getting people to write crap) when I do it here for free. When it all boils down it all comes down to money which company (EML and someone else here in SA) spends the least to get an injured worker back to work, which all on here just want to do WORK.

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  2. “New” Workcover a mixed bag for injured workers
    Posted on October 31, 2014 | SA Unions Media Release

    SA Unions has acknowledged the passage of the Return to Work Act through State Parliament.

    SA Unions President Jamie Newlyn says the Return to Work Act has a strong focus on getting people back to work and a number of important new entitlements for injured workers are now in law.

    “However, we believe that in achieving these new benefits for injured workers, the government has reduced some entitlements that go too far and too deep.”

    The union movement has been negotiating with the State Government to amend the Bill since it was first introduced to Parliament in August.

    “The rights of injured workers are one of the highest priorities for the union movement – the new Act incorporates all the improvements that we’ve been fighting for since 2008.

    These new and reintroduced rights for injured workers include:

    -Minimum wage protection
    -100% wage for twelve months after injury
    -payments of wages while in dispute over claims
    -and the abolition of medical panels

    “These unfair medical panels were always a kangaroo court and as the union movement has always argued, a complete waste of money.”

    Further new entitlements in the new Act include:

    -the rights of injured workers to insist on their boss providing them work – that is legally enforceable through the courts
    -new lump sum economic loss compensation of up to a maximum of $340,000 for people who suffer permanent injuries, which will be paid on top of all other entitlements
    -Very seriously injured people will now have the right to sue their employer over the negligent action that caused their injury

    “The new Act finally scraps the failed changes of 2008 which not only resulted in fewer injured workers returning to their jobs, but a blow-out in the scheme’s unfunded liability.

    “We are disappointed that the new Act embeds two classes of injured workers: those with 30% whole person impairment and those without.

    “As a result of this extremely high threshold, most injured workers will now be paid benefits for only two years and only the most catastrophically injured workers will get lifetime support.

    “Furthermore, the right to sue negligent employers is limited to far too few people. We don’t believe this is a big enough stick to ensure employers don’t contribute to their workers being injured in the first place.

    “At a time when the bottom line financial performance of Workcover has improved, as a result of better management of the scheme, we believe the sharp edges of these changes should be softer.

    “The threshold for injured workers to sue their employer, and receive benefits beyond two years, is too high.

    “We’re also concerned about the way the new Act will treat people who suffer psychological injuries.

    “We will always advocate for a fair, just and sustainable workers compensation scheme for the sake of injured workers and their families.

    “The South Australia union movement will, throughout the term of this Labor government, fight to ensure that the financial dividends that the new Act will bring about are ultimately returned to injured workers and their families.”

    Source: https://ieusa.org.au/new-workcover-a-mixed-bag-for-injured-workers/

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  3. here is a good podcast re the new harsh SA workcover reforms.

    Unfriendly changes to WorkCover SA

    If you blinked you may have missed it, but South Australia witnessed a change in its workcover system recently with the State Government claiming the reforms will save employers money, as well as providing greater support to help employees return to the workplace.

    Not everyone was satisfied with the “Return to Work” policy however, with the Labor Party’s own MP Stephanie Key speaking out against the changes, before voting in favour of them in line with party policy.

    Greens MLC Tammy Franks joined us and explained why the changes will overall punish injured workers.

    Click to listen to the podcast: https://radio.adelaide.edu.au/unfriendly-changes-to-workcover-sa/

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  4. Ive had three spinal injuries at work in SA.
    Worst and first, was crushed by tree, fractured vertebrae and two dislocated vertebrae, two nine inch steel rods put in spine (since removed) all internal organs crushed, broken ankle.

    Second injury, hurt by large tree branch fall, lower back damage.

    Third hurt on unsafe machine, damage to whole spine!
    Two more people with no previous injuries were all but totally crippled using same machine after me. They had seen my experience with workcover and just went on pension!!

    Courts found me to be totally and permanently incapacitated physically and mentally!! Now I’m getting pushed off syatem with no medical support. My meds cost aprox. $300-$350 a week! They are not on PBS!!!

    What do I do now?? Die???

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    steve South Australia March 31, 2015 at 11:07 pm