In changes that would transform NSW into “the meanest system in the country”, the O’Farrell government is planning to take an axe to the NSW Workers’ Compensation Scheme, slashing lump-sum payments for the injured and removing long-term recipients of weekly benefits from the scheme after a set period.
Barry’s axe to fall on injured workers:
A Parliamentary Committee convened to conduct an inquiry into the current NSW Workers’ Compensation system began this week and will report back within 28 days. The Committee will investigate the health of the scheme and potential reforms.
The eight person Committee includes 4 Coalition MP’s, 2 Labor MP’s, 1 Christian Democrat MP and 1 Shooters and Fishers MP. The Greens are not represented on the Committee.
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson predicted ‘massive cuts’ to entitlements, which he said would leave injured workers destitute.
“The committee is nothing more than a facade for this government to hide behind as it rips away those entitlements of workers,” Mr Robertson told reporters in Sydney.
“The workers compensation system is set up as a safety net for everyone who goes to work.
“Accidents can happen at work at anytime to anybody, and that safety net is the difference between families losing their house or being able to pay their bills while they are rehabilitated to make their way back to work.”
“When a worker is injured at work they should be entitled to protection through the workers’ compensation scheme. If changes to the system result in workers and their families losing their homes - then the system has failed.
“The USU will fight any changes to the workers’ compensation scheme that attacks working families when they are at their most vulnerable.”
USU General Secretary
It is estimated that half of the 28,000 workers who currently receive benefits and medical expenses would no longer receive a cent under the new scheme.
Barrister Bruce McManamey, a spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said: “It’s the kind of stuff that will result in injured workers losing their homes. People lose the ability to repay mortgages when they are thrown back on to social security.”
The changes, according to sources, would include:
ABOLISHING lump-sum payments for injured workers with “less than 10 per cent whole-body impairment” (and therefore excluding payment for injuries such as a fused ankle or back and neck injuries not requiring surgery).
A CUT-OFF after 2½ years (or 130 weeks) for weekly payments for those considered to be partially injured.
A LIMIT of nine years for all entitlements except for people who are “totally incapacitated”.
At present, injured workers receive 100 per cent of their ordinary pay for the first 26 weeks off work.
Under the new reforms, there would be a sliding scale under which the most an injured worker could collect is 90 per cent of their wage.
The Secretary of Unions NSW, Mark Lennon said: “This state government is preparing to abandon workers and make their lives even harder.”