The O’Farrell Government has signalled their intention to slash workers compensation in NSW. Apparently cutting public sector wages and conditions just isn’t going to be enough to fund a new rail link. The main announcement was a softening up exercise, typically made in the Daily Telegraph complete with shock and awe statistics.
The main announcement was a softening up exercise, typically made in the Daily Telegraph complete with shock and awe statistics.
The same day the issue was part of an address by the Premier to his favoured audience; the Business Council of Australia, the NSW Business Chamber and the Sydney Business Chamber.
The O’Farrell Government’s rationale is based on a report that said WorkCover had a deficit of more than $4 billion which in six months had increased by $1.7 billion.
As a result they now intend to slug the benefits of injured workers, the same people they want to make up their world class public sector.
The problem is that the scheme is already causing great hardship for many workers, forcing some to use their own leave to top up their benefit while off work injured.
In other words, they are paying to have a workplace injury.
Currently all you get is a basic $432.50 per week if you are injured at work so badly that you can’t return after just 26 weeks.
That’s the lousy cost that the O’Farrell Government now want to cut back.
And they’re not pulling any punches.
As Greg Pearce sneeringly put it while debating the issue in Parliament “In the work injury damages space everybody gets a prize except the scheme.”
Perhaps it’s all some backhand method of forcibly achieving greater health and safety in the workplace; be extra careful at work or you won’t be able to pay your rent or mortgage – an issue already all too real for many injured workers.
Unfortunately, it appears we have some work to do to get the community to appreciate the true and very human impact of workplace injury and the importance of proper workers compensation, if the results of a poll in the Daily Telegraph on 27 March are any guide.
When asked, “Are workers compensation payouts too high?” 56% answered “yes”.
(This of course reflects the hidden element of the Government’s agenda: demonising the public sector in the eyes of the community and then positioning themselves as some sort of social champion.)
Every few years governments try to cut our workers compensation rights and entitlements instead of focusing on injury prevention and management along with more effective return to work schemes.
In 2001, the Labor Government moved to slash benefits in an attempt to reel in costs.
The Government’s attitude prompted the historic picket of Parliament House on 19 June 2001 which saw thousands of unionists from across the state form a human shield along Macquarie Street.
It was a defining moment in the modern history of the NSW union movement.
Our bottom line was as simple then as it is now: no loss of entitlements or rights for injured workers.
But if a Labor government can ram though lousy workers comp laws, imagine what the Libs have in mind?