Privatising workers comp puts SA workers’ rights up for sale
23rd Feb 2017
Handing control of the South Australian workers compensation scheme to private insurers would prioritise insurer profits ahead of injured workers’ rights, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
According to reports, the South Australian Cabinet is considering handing over the administration of public sector workers’ compensation to private providers and then allowing Return to Work SA (RTWSA) to charge state government agencies insurance premiums.
ALA South Australia President Pat Boylen said any move by the Weatherill government to privatise the workers compensation scheme would see benefits to injured workers slashed, leaving many vulnerable workers and their families in dire circumstances.
“All available figures show that the public workers’ compensation scheme in South Australia is run very efficiently and only has limited unfunded liabilities. There is no justification for changing this scheme and putting workers’ benefits at risk,” Mr Boylen said.
“The only conceivable reason the Weatherill government could have for making such a move is that it wants to increase the value of its asset before taking it to market.”
Mr Boylen said the mooted changes would act to maximise premium earnings from the scheme for the government, which would increase its attractiveness for sale to the private sector.
“Privatising the workers compensation scheme will put the rights and entitlements of many future generations of workers up for sale simply for a one-off windfall for the state budget,” Mr Boylen said.
“This government has already dramatically slashed of benefits to injured workers, often leaving injured workers and their families in dire circumstances.”
“Privatising the entire compensation scheme will see those remaining benefits cut further as the private insurers put profits ahead of the injured. Let’s remember that these people have been injured working to support themselves and their families. Their rights should not be sacrificed like this,” Mr Boylen said.
Mr Boylen said a series of restrictive and unfair changes to Return to Work have drastically limited the number of injured workers that are eligible for compensation and medical support. These restrictions mean that more injured workers are left to fend for themselves, with Centrelink and Medicare often picking up the bill. Outcomes for the injured and their families are worse as a result.
Mr Boylen said the revised Return to Work Act also restricts workers accessing reasonable medical treatment after a certain period despite many people relying on that treatment to continue working.
“Now a worker must suffer an injury such as the loss of an entire limb before they can access long term financial and medical support,” Mr Boylen said.
“It’s about time the Weatherill government stood up for core Labor values and ruled out once and for all privatising workers’ compensation in South Australia.”