The Guardian May 2, 2001 State-wide strike for compo rights
Last Friday, April 27, Australia hosted the International Day of Mourning for workers killed as a result of their work. The protest and remembrance to mark climbing fatalities of workplace related deaths around the world, including Australia, powerfully reinforces the need for
increased occupational health and safety measures in workplaces to protect workers' health and lives. In NSW it also serves to highlight the Carr Government's attempt to wipe out workers' compensation rights.
The Carr Government's Workers' Compensation Legislation Bill 2001 is aimed at taking away fundamental rights from injured workers, including the right of access to common law to sue negligent employers. It puts restrictive rules in place which would make it all but impossible for most of those seeking compensation to receive payment.
Under these harsh new rules about 95 percent of injured workers currently eligible for compensation would receive no payments. Workers would no longer receive lump sum payments if they cannot prove they have suffered a 10 percent permanent body impairment, 25 percent for common law claims.
Further, before any claim can go to court a new Claims Assessment Service would have the power to make legally binding decisions on such matters as the degree of a worker's permanent bodily impairment. Workers will have no right to appeal except in the most extreme cases.
Frank McGrath, the former chief judge of the Compensation Court, said last week that the Carr Government was looking for the quickest way to get rid of injured workers. "Under the proposed system, you should no longer call it the Workers' Compensation Act — it should be a departmental economies act."