NSW Workers Compensation Scheme slashing injured workers rights - ALA
31st Oct 2013
Injured workers rights are being slashed by Premier Barry O’Farrell, which is the only reason he and the Finance Minister were able to announce a NSW Compensation Scheme surplus, yesterday, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said today.
“Drastic changes reducing benefits to the workers compensation were made 18 months ago due to a projected $4.1 billion scheme deficit,” ALA NSW President, Jnana Gumbert, said.
“Premier Barry O'Farrell and Finance Minister Andrew Constance refer to more generous payments being made to seriously injured workers following last year’s amendments, but this represented only 964 people at the time it started.
The Premier also failed to explain that these seriously injured people also remain prone to reduced benefits despite the seriousness of their injuries, with the great majority of the injured being far worse off under this scheme.
Thousands of injured workers with long term disability have also been cut adrift with no income support and no access to medical treatment,” Ms Gumbert said.
She said the driving force behind the so-called reforms was a purported desire to return injured workers to their jobs earlier.
“While the government heralds a small improvement in return to work outcomes, the majority of injured workers now have no weekly payment entitlements a short time after their injury.
They also have limited access to appropriate and timely medical treatment forcing them to return to work before they should, causing further injury or reliance on Centrelink if eligible.”
Ms Gumbert said the announced premium cuts for NSW employers were also being offered at a cost to the Australian taxpayer, with the O’Farrell Government simply shifting the cost of the NSW workers compensation scheme onto the Commonwealth funded Centrelink and Medicare schemes.
“While this means the production of healthy balance sheets for his government it means the taxpayer is now footing the bill for NSW injured workers through their taxes.”
The ALA is now calling for monies to put back into the hands of injured workers.
“If a $4.1 billion deficit has been turned into a $300 million plus surplus in less than 18 months, then the actuarial studies on which the reforms were based were most likely unreliable and inaccurate,” Ms Gumbert said.
“The whole purpose of this scheme is to make sure that workers are looked after when injured at work, in need of treatment and unable to return to work. If such a significant turnaround in the deficit can be achieved in such a short time, then obviously, the benefit cuts introduced last year went too far.
Last year’s amended legislation specifically stated that the Minister must review reforms as soon as possible after the scheme returned to surplus. The ALA now calls on the Minister to urgently review these drastic and unfair cuts to workers benefits,” she said.