Another worker has died this morning after being trapped under a forklift at the Sydney Markets.
The worker died at the scene in Flemington, in the city’s inner west, about 5.20am today, a NSW Police media spokeswoman said.
A coronial report is being prepared but WorkCover will handle the investigation.
As the OFarrell government beats their chest about rewarding employers with low premiums and anti worker workers compensation laws it seems bosses still cant prevent injury or death on the job.
“This is horrendous” says Injured Workers Support Network facilitator Michelle Burgess.”the third worker killed on the job since the OFarrell government embarked on its campaign to slash benefits to injured workers and their families.
Unfortunately for this family not only have they lost a loved one but there will be no compensation for the family for the stress and trauma caused to the family.”
“While injured and ill workers are the recipients of some of the worst workers comp reforms ever seen in this state, employers continue to injure and maim workers with no apparent repercussions” says Ms Burgess.
The Injured Workers Support Network extends its sympathy to the family and friends of the worker killed and calls on Barry OFarrell to take action against employers who cause work place death.
As most of you already know, workers compensation benefits are set to be slashed under changes recommended by a -in our opinion – totally sham joint parliamentary committee yesterday. Journey claims will be abolished, medical expenses will be capped, weekly payments will be cut and families of killed workers will no longer received benefits for nervous shock. The recommendations are just plain barbaric.
Injured Workers to suffer as compo benefits slashed
Workers compensation benefits are set to be slashed under changes recommended by a joint parliamentary committee today.
The committee’s report tabled in the NSW Parliament has recommend the abolition of “journey” claims, which will mean that workers will no longer be covered for injuries while travelling to and from work.
Police officers will be exempt and continue to be covered after successfully lobbying the parliamentary inquiry.
The joint parliamentary committee has also recommended that medical expenses be capped, that weekly payments be reduced and that benefits be cut after a set amount of time.
Families and dependents of people injured or killed on the job no longer receive benefits for nervous shock.
NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce appointed the committee, saying its recommendations would shape the government’s response to reining in a $4 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme.
Mr Pearce also released an issues paper in April that flagged all the cuts to benefits that the committee report has recommended.
Mr Pearce has said the scheme is unsustainable and, without significant reform, NSW businesses would face a 28 per cent increase in WorkCover premiums, which would stall the state economy and jobs growth.
“The government is determined to provide injured workers the best safety net that we can and to ensure return to work as quickly as possible where a worker is able to return to work,” he said. [Oh, really, mate?]
“One of our concerns is that premiums in NSW are already 20 to 60 per cent higher than our main competitors in Victoria and Queensland.”
Parliamentary committee members Michael Daley, who is shadow treasurer, and his Labor colleague Adam Searle said the recommendations, if implemented, would result in the “biggest assault on workers’ rights in NSW that we have ever seen”.
Mr Daley and Mr Searle lost most votes against the changes against a majority of six. The six were made up of four government MPs, Christian Democrat Paul Green and Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Borsak, who chaired the committee.
Mr Daley said the government MPs were blaming injured workers for the difficulties in the Workers Compensation scheme.
“Heaven help you if you get injured at work in NSW now because you and your family will end up on the scrap heap,” he said.
“They are going to cut benefits to injured people after set time periods.
“The only thing the government members decided to do was to slash benefits for injured people.”
Mr Daley said the government had “railroaded through” each of the 16 recommendations in the discussion paper released by the Finance Minister.
“The report is a shocker and entirely without conscience,” he said.
Mr Daley said the parliamentary committee had heard how WorkCover was inefficient and how insurance companies were being paid more for doing less work.
The fact that NSW has a higher rate of workplace injury than other states had also been ignored in the final report.
Mr Daley said the committee’s draft parliamentary report was even handed but the final report had been been over-written to suit the government agenda.
He said that the final report recommended the scheme was in need of extensive review, yet it had made recommendations for removing and altering benefits to injured workers before the review could take place.
Mr Searle, an upper house MP, said the government should fix inefficiencies in the WorkCover scheme instead of “kicking the injured worker”.
“This is the most shocking assault on the rights of injured workers in my lifetime,” he said.
“In the past when reform has been needed, every participant or stakeholder in the scheme has been asked to make a contribution to scheme repair. On this occasion the entire burden of reversing the scheme deterioration has been placed on the backs of the most vulnerable people – the injured workers the scheme was designed to support.
“The actuarial evidence received by the committee states in part that the deterioration of the scheme can be arrested and reversed by improving the claims management experience and performance of the scheme agents.
“Almost every participant had evidence from the inquiry that pointed to a weakness in the performance of scheme agents.”
Mr Searle said compensation payments to injured workers had reduced by 20 per cent over the past 10 years, yet the scheme agents were paid three times as much as they were a decade ago.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said workers’ compensation payments were cut to the bone a decade ago.
“These further reductions will see many injured workers fall into poverty,” he said.
“The removal of journey claims means employees are not covered when they travel to and from work but everyone needs to get to their place of work and come home.
“Journey claims amount to only a tiny proportion of the scheme’s costs and removing these entitlements will leave thousands of workers without any protection when they are injured.
“Excluding police simply confirms how unfair the changes are. If police are protected while they travel to and from work, so should firefighters, nurses, teachers and construction workers.”
Mr Shoebridge said there were 7000 journey claims last year but because most of the associated costs were recovered from third parties, the financial impact was only 4 per cent of all benefits paid.
Just to reiterate: here is the truth about the sham inquiry into the NSW workers comp scheme
Bureaucracy, not benefits, are the curse of WorkCover
NSW WorkCover, its insurer agents, lawyers, doctors and injured workers all want the state’s workers’ compensation scheme to be more effective, but they are obviously divided on how to achieve this.
A NSW joint parliamentary committee was set up in haste (and without democratic vote of participants, for example MLC David Shoebridge was NOT allowed to be part of the “Committee”) to inquire into the scheme.
But there was of course considerable public argument about the so called 16 recommendations under consideration, with many critics telling public hearings last week that the scheme’s administration is the problem, not the benefits it pays.
NSW WorkCover is the country’s largest workers’ compensation scheme, covering almost 270,000 employers and more than 3 million workers. It receives 80,000 claims a year and has 100,000 open at any time. About 42,000 of these claimants receive weekly benefits because of their ongoing incapacity to work.
The scheme also has a $4.1 billion deficit. Geniere Aplin, GM of its Workers’ Compensation Insurance Operations, said analyses by WorkCover, two actuaries and the NSW Auditor-General have all found the scheme is unsustainable.
“Much of the recent debate has been focused on the deficit, but the urgent and equally related problem is whether the scheme is structured appropriately to support injured workers and to return them to work efficiently and fairly,” Ms Aplin told the committee.
Insurers were represented at the inquiry’s public hearings by Allianz and the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA). They advocate an earlier step-down from 100% payments and more effective testing of work capacity.
But ICA, and others to appear, have noted that the 16 recommendations in an issues paper on the scheme have not been costed.
Insurers have come under fire for staffing their claims departments with young, inexperienced people who argue with doctors and treat injured workers like frauds. But the inquiry has also heard that agents feel WorkCover guidelines constrain them.
ICA’s National Workers’ Compensation Committee Chairman David Krawitz, who is Allianz Chief GM Workers’ Compensation, says agents are bound by their contracts with WorkCover and its guidelines, but often feel the legislation and its application prevent them from achieving optimal outcomes.
He says that although most injured workers want to get back to work, that cannot be said for all of them.
An injured person can get any number of assessments and can choose and change assessors “pretty much at will. We believe that creates a climate in which it is very hard for us to manage the process.”
Insurers can arrange an independent medical assessment on work capacity, but it is not binding he said (since when is it “not binding”? Insurers bloddy over-rule IMEs’ anytime they like and go doctor shopping until they’re happy with an IME’s biased report!!!)
Mr Krawitz said that earlier step-down in payments would encourage people back to work – WTF!
“The incentives today are not strong in that regard,” he said.
Australian Lawyers Alliance NSW Director Bruce McManamey says an “ever-growing bureaucracy” has interfered with the scheme and that there have been four reductions in benefits since 1995.
He also said that the way the scheme is managed through its agents impedes the return to work process, and micromanagement prevents claims-handlers from using their experience and expertise to try to get better outcomes.
UnionsNSW does not believe the scheme is in crisis at all, with Secretary Mark Lennon describing the move to reduce benefits as “a race to the bottom”.
He said outsourcing claims to agents has not worked in NSW, Victoria and SA and that cutting payments will not encourage people to return to work.
The inquiry has heard that many workers are significantly financially worse off on WorkCover payments, and employers do not want to employ injured workers or anyone who has had a workers’ compensation claim.
UnionsNSW recommended the average premium should be increased by about 8% a year over 10 years to restore the fund.
Kevin Purse, a senior research fellow at Central Queensland University whose doctorate is in workers’ compensation policy, says the $4 billion deficit is an actuarial calculation that is inherently uncertain. He says a better guide to the scheme’s performance is its funding ratio, which at 78% is very conservative.
“WorkCover has more than sufficient funds available to meet its current financial obligations,” he said.
Dr Purse also disagrees that NSW benefits should be cut to improve the state’s competitive position, saying NSW has more serious work injuries than Victoria.
“The main causes of the scheme’s performance have been a failure of claims agents in delivering their injury management responsibilities, despite being paid $318 million in fees to do so as of last year; WorkCover’s apparent inability to manage its agents; and the lack of compliance with their legal obligations by sections of the employer community in providing suitable employment for injured workers ready to return to work.”
Dr Purse cited a decline in enforcing workplace health and safety laws as another factor.
Allianz and QBE are the largest WorkCover agents.
Speaking on behalf of Allianz, Mr Krawitz says 70% of the company’s 2011 claimants had fewer than five days off work, and 90% had less than 30 days off.
But he says claims that are not resolved quickly are becoming an increasing cost.
Mr Krawitz says Allianz endorses additional benefits for severely injured workers, but the scheme does not give agents tools to resolve the claims of a substantial group that could return to work earlier.
He also said that they believe “it is the ineffectiveness in differentiating between the seriously and less-seriously injured that is the most significant challenge in the scheme’s structure”.
So, what we are trying to say again is that NONE of the fundamental issues raised in the so called “inquiry” have been raised or addressed by the “Committee”. Instead they have recommended a wild slash of injured workers’ benefits with no regards whatsoever to these people’s well-being or health.
And what are they really doing here? But shifting the ‘deficit” onto the tax payers (Centrelink and Medicare)…?!
It’s a disgrace! O’Farrell will be remembered like Kennett
[post inserted entirely by T on behalf of workcovervictim]
More media coverage
Workers’ compensation overhaul to slash benefits
INJURED employees in NSW face big cutbacks to their benefits under changes intended to prop up the state’s ailing workers’ compensation scheme.
A Coalition-dominated parliamentary committee report tabled last night recommends the time during which injured workers can claim 95 per cent of their pre-injury earnings be halved from 26 weeks to 13 weeks, in line with practice in Victoria. After the 13-week threshold benefits would fall to 80 per cent. Read more>>
Workers rally in Sydney to preserve compensation
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson told protesters the government would act on the recommendations of a parliamentary committee and “gut” the WorkCover scheme.
As the workers yelled “Shame Barry, Shame”, he said Labor MPs would fight the changes.
“This is an attack on every single worker in NSW,” Mr Robertson said.
“Every single worker in NSW will suffer because Barry O’Farrell hates working people.”
Greens MP David Shoebridge said his party would also oppose the government’s “radical” overhaul.
“Barry O’Farrell cooked up a hatchet committee … to work out how to cut your rights at work,” he said.
Jason Puxty told the crowd how he had been injured on the job as a police officer during a brawl in Orange.
“To propose to cut off funding for any treatment that I require at a legislated two-and-a-half years lacks compassion, caring and social responsibility,” he said.
“All workers want is to know that if you are injured in the job that you will be looked after.
The Chair of the Joint Select Committee states, in the final report – which was quickly printed today [whilst the rally against the slashes of compo benefits was going on!] that he is “pleased to present the report of the inquiry into the NSW workers compensation scheme”. Well we are horrified to share its hasty and purely economical recommendations with you! In our opinion, there was no genuine inquiry, it was nothing but a scam and the report may well have been written by the butcher himself.
Final Report NSW Workers Compensation Scheme – the “recommendations” may have well been written by Barry the butcher himself
The Committee was established on 2 May 2012 to inquire into and report on the New South Wales Workers Compensation Scheme.
The Terms of Reference required that the Committee have particular regard to the performance of the Scheme in meeting its key objectives of promoting better health outcomes and return to work outcomes for injured workers; the financial sustainability of the Scheme and its impact on the New South Wales economy; and the functions and operations of the WorkCover Authority.
In undertaking this Inquiry, the Committee has had regard to an Issues Paper released by the Hon Greg Pearce MLC, Minister for Finance and Services, on 23 April 2012. The Issues Paper detailed a number of concerns with the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme, primarily that the Scheme had a deficit of over $4 billion and included sixteen reform options to address these concerns. The sixteen options outlined in the Issues Paper formed the basis of most of the evidence received by the Committee throughout this Inquiry.
The Committee acknowledges the diverse views of stakeholders impacted by the operation and management of the Workers Compensation Scheme in New South Wales and, in particular, the polarised views expressed about the options proposed in the Issues Paper. In light of the Scheme’s poor financial position, the Committee is of the view that immediate reform is required, and on that basis has made a number of recommendations that have been forecast to have a quantifiable effect on the Scheme’s deficit.
The Committee also considers that it is critical that the Scheme undergo an extensive and detailed review, with a view to developing a comprehensive strategy to address the Scheme’s long term viability and improve its operation and performance in meeting its key objectives.
The Committee has therefore made a recommendation that such a review be undertaken.
Summary of recommendations
That the NSW Government ensure that, under the Workers Compensation Scheme, a worker assessed as severely injured be subject to work capacity testing but with the Workers Compensation Commission able to suspend or to waive the requirement for the severely injured worker to undergo work capacity testing. Recommendation 2
That the NSW Government ensure that, under the Workers Compensation Scheme, any time cap on payment of weekly income benefits and medical expenses (apart from the Commonwealth retirement age) not apply to appropriately defined severely injured workers. Recommendation 3
That the NSW Government abolish journey claims under the Workers Compensation Scheme, except in relation to police officers.
That the NSW Government abolish the entitlement of dependents of deceased or injured workers to make nervous shock claims under the Workers Compensation Scheme.
That NSW Government ensure that, under the Workers Compensation Scheme, the weekly income benefits of both award and non-award workers be determined by reference to one measure of average actual pre-injury earnings.
That the NSW Government ensure that, under the Workers Compensation Scheme:
in cases of total incapacity, workers receive weekly income benefits on the Victorian model, namely (broadly speaking) 95 per cent of their pre-injury average weekly earnings for the first 13 weeks of total incapacity, and then 80 per cent from week 14 onwards.
in cases of partial incapacity, workers receive weekly income benefits on the Victorian model, namely (broadly speaking) 95 per cent of their pre-injury average weekly earnings for the first 13 weeks of total incapacity and then 80 per cent from week 14 onwards (in each case less certain amounts).
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to impose a time cap on weekly income benefits of no less than five years for less seriously injured workers, with a more generous time cap for an intermediate category of injured worker and ultimately no time cap (except the Commonwealth retirement age) for the most seriously injured workers. Recommendation 8
That the NSW Government ensure that, under the Workers Compensation Scheme, in addition to any other caps, the absolute end date for the payment of all weekly benefits be the Commonwealth retirement age.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to cap reasonable and necessary medical and related treatment expenses to those incurred whilst weekly benefits are paid and for one year after the cessation of those payments.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to require mandatory, independent, binding work capacity testing at defined intervals.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to incorporate payments under section 67 for pain and suffering into section 66 for lump sum payments for injuries.
That the NSW Government ensure that, under the Workers Compensation Scheme, after the determination of a claim for whole person impairment, only up to two further claims be permitted and in each case only if there has been a deterioration of whole person impairment of at least 5 per cent since the last determination.
That the NSW Government liberalise the availability of commutations, generally subject to the provision that the injured worker has obtained independent legal and financial planning advice before agreeing to a commutation.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the definition of ‘injury’ in section 4 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 so that a disease is only included if the employment was the main contributing factor to the contraction, aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation or deterioration of the disease.
That the NSW Government seek to extend the Civil Liability Act 2002 to work injury damages claims, but modified by inclusion of some additional sections dealing with the workplace, in particular inherently dangerous activities and obvious risks.
That the NSW Government seek to establish a joint standing committee of the Parliament of New South Wales:
to conduct ongoing oversight of the New South Wales Workers Compensation Scheme by undertaking annual reviews of its operation, management and performance,
to conduct an extensive review (see Recommendation 17) of the Workers Compensation Scheme, and
with the capacity to engage actuarial expertise to assist it to perform its functions.
That the NSW Government commence an extensive, detailed review of the New South Wales Workers Compensation Scheme to develop a comprehensive strategy aimed at addressing the long term viability of the Scheme and enhancing the management and administration of the Scheme. In conducting the review, consideration should be given to statutory and non-statutory reforms that reflect the breadth of the Scheme, including, although not limited to:
improvements in WorkCover’s management and administrative systems
feasibility of permitting more specialised insurance for certain industries, particularly those industries considered ‘high risk’
establishing a centralised information and technology system within the Scheme
feasibility of establishing an independent medical assessment service
an examination of workers compensation schemes in other jurisdictions, particularly the Victorian model.
That the NSW Government re-open the opportunity for specialised insurance arrangements, with appropriate prudential supervision and safeguards.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to remove the entitlement of the estate of a worker to receive a death benefit where the worker had no dependants.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to increase the thresholds for permanent impairment lump sums under section 66 of the Act from the current 1 per cent WPI (general) and 6 per cent WPI (binaural hearing loss) to 10 per cent, but on the basis that savings be ‘redistributed’ in the form of higher permanent impairment lump sums for those with at least 10 per cent WPI and particularly those workers defined as severely injured (with a 15 per cent WPI threshold to be retained for psychological injury).
That the NSW Government ensure that the Workers Compensation Scheme’s liability for injuries sustained by workers during ‘recess’ be limited to circumstances where the employment has been the significant contributing factor.
That the NSW Government review the WorkCover premium system to extend the experience rating system to create incentives for employers both with respect to safety performance and return to work of injured workers.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to allow greater use of medical assessors to determine questions of causation.
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to adopt a model of medical assessment for injured workers similar to that used within the Motor Accidents Scheme.
That, given the financial and other impacts on workers of not returning to work, the NSW Government ensure that each of the ideas contained in paragraph 4.64 be fully explored by the joint standing committee proposed at Recommendation 16.
That the NSW Government review the functions, behaviour and powers available to Scheme agents under the Workers Compensation Scheme, and the guidelines issued to them by WorkCover, to achieve better claims management outcomes.
That the NSW Government and the joint standing committee proposed in Recommendation 16 make options to prevent and reduce workplace injury a priority.
That the NSW Government consider a comprehensive examination of opportunities to harmonise compensation schemes in New South Wales
Now tell us, how on earth are those recommendations going to promote better health outcomes and return to work outcomes for injured workers???
Final report NSW Workers Compensation Scheme – printed 13 June
View the [popup url=’http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/4ab361e7951ff4b5ca257a1c002758a0/$FILE/120613%20Final%20report.pdf ‘]final report in a scalable popup window[/popup] as published directly on the parliamentary’s website.
Compensation benefits will be slashed under changes to NSW’s WorkCover scheme to be recommended by a parliamentary committee today. MLC David Shoebridge said he had received “very strong reports that the parliamentary committee has signed off on every one of the government’s recommended cuts….
Workcover nsw benefits – how they will change
Compo benefits: how they will change
Anna Patty June 13, 2012 – Sydney Morning Herald
It is understood a report to be tabled in NSW Parliament will recommend the abolition of journey claims.
That will mean that workers will no longer be covered for injuries while travelling to and from work.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said he had received “very strong reports that the parliamentary committee has signed off on every one of the government’s recommended cuts and this will be a disaster for injured workers”.
He said workers compensation payments were cut to the bone a decade ago.
“These further reductions will see many injured workers fall into poverty,” he said.
“The removal of journey claims means employees are not covered when they travel to and from work but everyone needs to get to their place of work and come home.
“Journey claims amount to only a tiny proportion of the scheme’s costs and removing these entitlements will leave thousands of workers without any protection when they are injured.”
Mr Shoebridge said there were 7000 journey claims last year but, because most of the associated costs were recovered from third parties, the financial impact was only 4 per cent of all benefits paid.
Finance Minister Greg Pearce recently released a paper recommending that journey claims be abolished. It also recommended a cap on payments and the withdrawal of entitlements for nervous shock to family members of people injured or killed on the job.
Sourced and sent to us via Twitter with thanks by @grathom 😉
About 5,000 New South Wales public sector workers have defied pouring rain to hold a fiery rally in Sydney against proposed changes to the state’s workers compensation system. Premier Barry O’Farrell has shown no signs of being influenced by the rally!!!
About 5000 NSW workers rallied against proposed changes to workers comp
Uniformed firefighters and nurses and thousands of other public sector workers filled Macquarie Street as they marched to State Parliament.
They laid flowers at the parliamentary gates for workers who have been killed on the job.
The rally began with songs by a band of teenage brothers who recently lost their father in a workplace accident.
Upper House Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak will deliver the findings of an inquiry into the scheme this afternoon.
Premier Barry O’Farrell has shown no signs of being influenced by the rally.
He says he is determined changes to WorkCover will pass both houses of Parliament before MPs rise for the winter break.
“The State Government is not going to make any apologies for trying to ensure that the New South Wales workers compensation scheme is financially sustainable,” he said.
“The report at the end of last year showed that its deficit was $4 billion and we’re determined to do, when we see today’s report from the committee, all we can to ensure that workers in this state know that they have a scheme that they can rely on in the future.”
Before the rally the secretary of Unions New South Wales, Mark Lennon, accused Mr O’Farrell of using the inquiry as a rubber stamp to attack workers, when his target should be the insurance industry.
“Workers benefits will be slashed as a means of allegedly reforming the scheme,” Mr Lennon said.
“It’s across the board. This affects all workers in New South Wales, public and private sector.
“So from all industries, public sector, nursing, finance, manufacturing, construction, they’ll all be there to voice their concerns about the Government’s proposals.”
The general secretary of the NSW Nurses’ Association, Brett Holmes, says they fear the changes will result in injured staff returning to work prematurely.
“That could mean that they lose $300 a week out of their wages. Now for any family that is devastating,” he said.
“What these proposals will do is to put people in such serious financial difficulty in the expectation that that will somehow encourage them to return to work.”
Injured Workers Support Network members will tomorrow take to the streets and join unions and community supporters at a rally at NSW Parliament House in protest of the O’Farrell governments proposed slashing of workers compensation benefits to injured and ill workers.The IWSN have a few people who will be carrying the IWSN banner!
Take to the streets and join the IWSN tomorrow to protest against workers comp NSW slashes
As our co-author and Injured worker John McPhilbin says “There is much more to reforms than simply cutting costs. There are a host of human welfare issues to consider. Failure to acknowledge the very real impact of ill-conceived and arbitrary cost cutting of current benefits will have on the lives’ of injured workers and their families presents a very real moral dilemma for the O’Farrell Government.
Injured Workers Support Network recent survey of over 300 workers clearly identifies the issues frequently faced by injured workers and their families –
59% of injured workers reported having contemplated suicide as a result of their injury
55% said their relationships had suffered significantly
34% said they were now separated or divorced
65% reported their health was ‘much worse’ off than before their work related injury or illness
A failure to adequately address these issues will have a dire effect on injured workers and their families.”
“The governments attack on injured workers and their families in the Issues Paper is appalling. Injured workers are already in a vulnerable position in the current scheme and the changes suggested seek only to make injured workers worse off” says a Injured Workers Support Network spokesperson Michelle Burgess.
“The Injured Workers Support Network is currently preparing its submission to the National Bullying Inquiry.
Bullying has a direct link to workers compensation issues. The survey also identified injured workers are routinely being bullied by insurers and employers. This has serious consequences for individuals and the wider community. Every Australian has a right to feel safe and respected in the workplace”.
Join the IWSN tomorrow 12:30pm for a Rally outside Parliament House, Macquarie St, Sydney, to say no to cuts to workers compensation
The Injured Workers Network was set up in early 2011to assist and support workers who have sustained work related injuries, illness and disabilities. To provide and share information and experiences about the workers compensation system and the rights of injured & disabled workers.
Bathurst : Peter Tully
Press release from The Injured Workers Support Network
NURSES have voted to stop work over the NSW Government’s push to overhaul the compensation scheme for injured workers.
NSW Nurses’ Association general-secretary Brett Holmes said rallies would be held across the state tomorrow, when changes to WorkCover are handed down in a report to parliament.
He said a preliminary assessment of the plan indicated that nurses and midwives could face a 20 per cent pay cut in the fourth month after their work injury.
“Hundreds of nurses and midwives, in public and private hospitals and aged care facilities, suffer serious injuries each year,” he said.
“These are not always high profile injuries, but the ‘sprain and strain’ injuries nurses and midwives often suffer can cost them thousands in lost income under the current system.
“The O’Farrell Government plan will make those losses even worse.”
Mr Holmes said nurses were also opposed to plans to abolish journey claims for shift workers and its plan to stop all compensation payments after 130 weeks.
“This attack on the financial security of injured NSW workers, in both the private and public sectors, comes on the back of its attack on the industrial rights of public hospital nurses and midwives,” he said.
The NSW Government claims premiums will skyrocket if a $4.1 billion deficit isn’t reined in, while unions fear the WorkCover reforms will lead to injured workers having their benefits slashed.
[Note: Update 8 June: This above press release appears to have been removed…?]
NSW WorkCover – get your house in order say workers’ comp lawyers
The NSW government’s plans to make sweeping changes to the NSW workers’ compensation system will make NSW the meanest state in Australia, leaving injured workers and their loved ones worse off.
Workers compensation law firm Maurice Blackburn which has decades of experience recovering compensation for victims of workplace injury, says workers should not be punished for the cost blow-outs caused by poor management and red tape at the NSW WorkCover Authority.
“Maurice Blackburn shares the deep concerns of others – unions, the NSW Law Society and the Australian Lawyers Alliance about the impact these changes will have on 121,000* injured workers.
“We have seen many reforms of the Workcover system over the years, but this is shaping to be a serious assault on injured workers.
“If the changes go ahead as planned, it will make NSW the meanest state in Australia.
“It is obvious that a scheme which is currently experiencing a deficit of $4.1 billion cannot survive without an overhaul. But this should not be done at the expense of injured workers.
“Workcover should get its own house in order, and the government needs to look at cost savings and inefficiencies at the Workcover Authority itself rather than cutting benefits and entitlements to workers.
Some of the current proposals include:
Stopping weekly payments and treatment expenses after two and a half years, whether or not you have recovered from your serious injuries.
Journey claims – you are no longer protected under workers’ compensation if you are injured travelling to/from work.
Raising injury thresholds to a mostly unattainable 30% whole person impairment for work injury damages claims.
“More can be done to get quality rehabilitation services for injured workers and to oblige employers to do more to help injured workers back to work. We see many injured workers who want to get back to work, but certain employers are un-cooperative or actively discriminate against injured workers. It would be more cost effective to subsidise employers who have workers on a ‘return to work’ program and make genuine attempt sin assisting workers to return to work.
“We would like to see WorkCover doing much more to make sure NSW workplaces are the safest in the country, not taking the axe to workers benefits.”
“Administration costs and legal costs are wasted as a result of workers being forced to refer their matters to the Workers Compensation Commission due to WorkCover’s inability to force insurance company to adhere to the objectives of the Act. More needs to be done in terms of training WorkCover and insurance companies employees in administering the workers compensation scheme.
In short, there are a number of administrative and legal savings that could be made without hurting workers and kicking them while they are down. These proposed changes will only serve to add to the ever increasing financial pressures being placed on workers.
“The O’Farrell government’s plan to increase the threshold serious injuries to 30% of whole person impairment, will leave many if not most workers with serious injuries with very limited and reduced weekly and treatment expenses payments. Most workers will no longer have the ability to pursue a work injury damages claim,” said Mr Issa.
*Source: NSW WorkCover Authority, 2009-10 Statistical bulletin.
PREMIUMS for the state’s bloated WorkCover scheme will have to rise 28 per cent to bring it back into the black, an increase that will cost more than 12,500 jobs, reports the Telegraph. This article also covers the planned axes such as journey claims and coverage for relatives of dead injured workers…
Workcover NSW reforms will cost more than 12500 jobs!
The parliamentary inquiry into the program, which is $4 billion in debt, begins today and business groups are expected to support some of the government’s contentious reform proposals, designed to keep jobs in NSW.
In a submission set to be presented to the inquiry by the NSW Business Chamber, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, it’s estimated 12,600 jobs will go if premiums increase by 28 per cent. If premiums rise by 10 per cent, 8000 jobs will be lost.
Premiums paid by NSW employers are already between 20 and 60 per cent higher than in other states.
The government wants to axe coverage for “journey claims”, meaning if you are injured on your way to or from work, your employer is no longer liable, saving up to $100 million a year.
WORKERS compensation rights and payouts will be slashed to rein in WorkCover deficit and take the handbrake off bosses hiring staff.
The government’s submission also suggests axing the coverage for relatives of dead or injured workers suffering “nervous shock” and capping weekly payments in line with other states.
In Victoria, payments are generally capped at 130 weeks, Queensland has a cap of five years or $200,000 and Western Australia stops payments after a person claims over $190,000.
“The NSW business community supports the proposed changes put forward by the government. The current proposals for reform of the scheme are anticipated to have a positive impact on the scheme’s finances, and will focus support for the most seriously injured, where the community expects it should be focused,” NSW Business Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright said.
The NSWBC notes the scheme in its current form has lost “a focus on return to work as its primary objective“. It also takes aim at the growth of lump sum payments as evidence that WorkCover was being exploited “as an alternative to other forms of social support” [WTF!!!].
But while Mr Cartwright supports the government’s changes he said they don’t go far enough and are not “sufficient in themselves to bring about a sustainable and fully funded scheme”.
Unions NSW yesterday unveiled a campaign against the proposed cuts and announced a rally at Parliament House on June 13. In their submission to the inquiry, they claim the government is vastly inflating the deficit and there is no evidence of the movement of business interstate.
Unions in New South Wales have promised a massive campaign to safeguard the rights of injured workers. The State Government is moving to control escalating workers compensation premiums. Today a delegation of injured workers protested outside Parliament, as Unions New South Wales launched an advertising campaign to prevent what it fears will be an attack on the rights of the most vulnerable.
Unions promise battle over NSW workers compensation
[popup url=’http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2012/s3502568.htm ‘]Interview transcript ABC PM [/popup]14 May 2012
MARK COLVIN: Unions in New South Wales have promised a massive campaign to safeguard the rights of injured workers. The State Government is moving to control escalating workers compensation premiums. Today a delegation of injured workers protested outside Parliament, as Unions New South Wales launched an advertising campaign to prevent what it fears will be an attack on the rights of the most vulnerable.
But the Government and industry groups say changes must be made to a system that will soon go broke.
Matt Peacock prepared this report.
(excerpt from Unions New South Wales advertisement)
FEMALE ACTOR: What is it?
MALE ACTOR: A letter from the bank. It say they’re going to take our house away.
FEMALE ACTOR: No!
MALE ACTOR: This could be you. I used to be a healthy engineer, then my leg got crushed by a metal beam. But I was at work, right? I’d be covered. Uh-uh. Barry O’Farrell’s workers compensation…
MATT PEACOCK: Unions are promising a campaign that’ll rival the Your Rights at Work battle against the Howard government to stop what they see as a move by the New South Wales Coalition Government to wind back workers compensation rights.
RITA MALLIA: We want to make sure that our members turn up for work, do their work, and they can get home safely.
MATT PEACOCK: The CFMEU’s (Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union) state president, Rita Mallia, who says this is one issue that unions care about passionately.
RITA MALLIA: We’ve had members who had to ultimately had to live in cars because their mortgage has been, their houses have been foreclosed upon. I’ve had members whose families have broken down because they can’t live on workers compensation benefits, they can’t provide for their families.
You know, it could be very serious consequences for someone being severely injured and so therefore that is why we are very passionate about protecting our members’ rights.
MATT PEACOCK: Rita Mallia rejects the suggestion that WorkCover has a $4 billion blowout because of workers compensation payouts. Rather, she says, it’s been the global financial crisis and a poor investment strategy.
That’s a point only partly conceded by the Australian Industry Group state director, Mark Goodsell.
MARK GOODSELL: Part of the problem is, is in investment profile now and into the future. But at least half of the problem is the system is just not getting people back to work as quickly as it should and as quickly as it has in the past.
MATT PEACOCK: What’s needed to avoid a massive increase in premiums, says industry, is a proper review to bring the scheme’s escalating costs back under control.
MARK GOODSELL: The unions always react strongly when workers compensation changes are mooted. They did so a decade ago when the previous Labor government reached this point and in the late ’80s when another Labor government reached this point in managing premiums.
So this is the sort of thing that comes up every 12 to 15 years because the schemes tend to deteriorate over time if you don’t keep on top of them.
MATT PEACOCK: So what’s your message to the unions?
MARK GOODSELL: Well I understand that they agree that the current situation is not sustainable and I’d be amazed if they thought that slugging employers an extra 28 per cent premiums in the, in the tough times that they’re concerned about, because of the employment effects of the two-speed economy. I’d be amazed if they thought that the solution lay in increasing premiums.
And I understand that they believe that the current structure of the scheme is not sustainable. So what we need is a broad-ranging but very rapid enquiry to make sure that the scheme is brought back into a cost-base that is sustainable without doing unreasonable damage to the support mechanisms that workers should get.
But you’ve just got to remember that what looks like a benefit for workers, in some parts of the scheme and at some points in a claim, can actually work the other way and work to their disadvantage by acting as a disincentive to them getting back to work.
RITA MALLIA: There’s certainly not an opposition from us in respect to reform but our concern is that reform usually equals cuts to workers’ benefits and the focus of the Government, it seems to us, is about reducing the compensation available to injured workers as well as access to the workers compensation system and that is what we are fundamentally opposed to.
MATT PEACOCK: A Government-appointed committee is to examine possible changes to report back next month
MARK COLVIN: Matt Peacock.
Unions escalate WorkCover cuts campaign
By Emily Bourke -Updated May 14, 2012 09:34:57
Unions are ramping up their campaign against cuts to compensation for injured workers in New South Wales.
The State Government is planning a massive overhaul of workers’ compensation entitlements in response to a multi-billion dollar blowout in WorkCover claims.
Under the proposed changes, medical benefits would be capped, while claims for injuries incurred while travelling to and from work would be banned.
Unions say the changes would force many sick and injured people back to work and drive others onto pensions and into poverty.
Forty-two-year-old Grant Casey was a parole officer before he injured his back moving a table at work in 2009.
“I’ve had five lots of surgery,” he said.
“They tried cutting away the disc and then an implant but that didn’t work and they ended up fusing it.
“I ended up having a knee reconstruction because I was utilising my knees more, you know. And I’ve had bowel problems because of the medication I’m taking and had surgery with that.”
Despite the pain Grant Casey tried to get back to work.
“There was a phone call saying it’s cancelled – there’s no light duties available. You can either come back fully fit or there is no returning to work,” he said.
“So I went back to work full-time in January 2011…I was just getting intense pain. It was just aggravating.
“I know that I just want to get back to my best and get back to work.”
The New South Wales Government says the WorkCover scheme is costing far too much and it wants to put a cap on benefits to injured workers, and that has Mr. Casey worried.
“I would have no income whatsoever now if that was introduced. I’d be in dire financial straits,” he said.
“(I’d need to) either get assistance from family or have to sell the home.”
The Government’s planned changes would also scrap compensation for injuries sustained during trips to and from work and nervous shock payouts to partners of those killed at work.
“At the moment injured workers’ payments are basically at the award rate for the first 26 weeks and then they move to a statutory rate,” he said.
“The Government is proposing to reduce their payments after 13 weeks but we’re seeing proposals that, after two-and-a-half years, weekly payments would cease.
“Also after two-and-a-half years for those injured, severely injured workers and others, it appears there’ll be a cap on their medical payments.”
Mr Lennon acknowledges the $4 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme needs to be addressed.
“That’s why we’re proposing reforms that would help people get back to work more quickly,” he said.
“Remembering of course that about half that deficit is owing to the present financial circumstances – their 10 year estimates of the liabilities of the scheme.
“Of course, should the economy pick up the deficit will also reduce.
“But there are some changes that need to be made. We admit that. What we say is that it shouldn’t be attacking workers benefits.
“As we say, I think there’s improvements a) in administration; b) in the way the insurance agents react with the scheme or interact with the scheme; and c) as we say, improving the way we can get people back to work more quickly.”
Mr Lennon warns the government’s proposed changes will force injured and sick people even further away from work.
“Ultimately what happens is that they end up moving onto other forms of benefits such as disability support pensions,” he said.
“So in a sense the issue doesn’t go away, it’s just removed from the state taxpayer to the federal taxpayer.”
The state’s Finance Minister says reform of WorkCover is a matter of the highest priority for the Government.
A parliamentary inquiry into the proposed changes begins this week and will report back next month.