|Issue No 24||30 July 1999|
Workers Comp — The Rorts Have to Stop
By HT Lee
- CFMEU Construction Division
Over 15,000 building, construction and metal workers held a peaceful but noisy demonstration on Wednesday 28 July to protest against the crisis in the NSW workers compensation.
Workers in the CBD, North Sydney and surrounding areas stopped work to hold a rally at Sydney Town Hall Square before marching to Parliament House.
With banners, flags and chanting 'Hands off workers comp' the workers brought city traffic to a stand still. The protest one of the biggest seen in Sydney in recent times stretched from Parliament House to Town Hall.
The workers compensation crisis is a direct result of bosses rorting the system and not paying their proper workers compensation premiums--there is over 40% non-compliance in the industry.
Employers, bureaucrats and politicians response to the crisis is to further cut back workers comp benefits.
The Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU), the Australian Workers Union (AMWU), the Electrical Trade Union (ETU), the Plumbers (CEPU Plumbing Division) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) reply is clear: 'We will not cop any reduction in workers' benefits.'
The NSW Labor Government was also sent a blunt message: 'Fix up the crisis. Make employers comply with no cut back to benefits.'
Addressing the rally outside Parliament House, NSW Labor Council Secretary Michael Costa said: 'Workers comp is got to be put back on track. It's got to be put back into a form which does what it was originally set up for. And that is to protect workers rights, to protect workers interests and to ensure they get fair compensation if they are injured.'
The CFMEU has proposed a solution to solve the crisis--a separate building industry scheme where developers pay 30% of the workers comp levy up front and the remaining 70% is paid monthly by employers.
'We want the rich, powerful and developers to pay 30% of all compo costs in our industry,' CFMEU Secretary Andrew Ferguson told the rally.
'They won't get a permit to build until they pay the levy. If they don't pay they don't build,' Ferguson said.
According to Ferguson there are widespread rorting of the present honour system.
'Our solution is simple, the bosses pay workers comp every month. If they doesn't pay they doesn't work,' Ferguson said.
The NSW Labor Council has also endorsed the separate building industry workers comp scheme Costa said.
'We have to form our own structure and look at a system that takes responsibility for compliance.
'And I guarantee if the unions take responsibility for compliance we will get compliance,' Costa told the rally.
The Master Builders Association (MBA) and legitimate employers have also backed the unions' proposals.
A spokesperson from Industrial Relations Minister, Jeff Shaw said, 'the government will consider the unions' proposals in due course.'
A letter was read out at last night's Labor Council meeting. Shaw's letter claims the WorkCover new restructure will ensure compliance: 'The General Manager of the WorkCover Authority, Mr John Grayson, advises me that WorkCover has commenced a program of compliance improvement within its Insurance Division. Compliance with workers compensation insurance and injury management obligations are an essential part of a well managed scheme and its compliance program will assist in ensuring that full premiums are paid by employers.'
Since 1995 the unions have brought to the government's attention the problems of compliance. But the only way compliance will work is by setting up a separate building industry scheme as proposed by the CFMEU.
If the unions' proposals are not taken seriously there could be more stop work protest.
It's now up to the Carr Labor Government--the ball is in their court.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005