|Issue No 49||07 April 2000|
Double Vision for WorkCover?
Labor Council's safety watchdog Mary Yaager looks at some major changes to the WorkCover Authority.
The New South Wales Government has decided to split the responsibility for the WorkCover portfolio.
Jeff Shaw, the Minister who has had responsibility for WorkCover since 1995, will retain responsibility for Occupational Health and Safety. John Della Bosca, Special Minister for State and Assistant Treasurer, will take on the responsibility for Workers' Compensation or the "poison chalice".
Workers compensation has been plagued with major financial problems with a huge deficit which was spiralling out of control and was inherited by the Carr Government upon their election in 1995.
The unions have worked closely with Jeff Shaw through a peak consultative advisory body, The Workers' Compensation Advisory Council, to bring the scheme back into line.
The unions found Jeff Shaw took a genuine interest in their suggestions and implemented reforms which were beneficial both to injured workers and to the scheme as a whole. He didn't listen to the advice of those who wanted draconian reforms similar to those implemented by the Kennett Government in Victoria.
In December 1999 he announced that there had been a turnaround of almost $1 billion in the scheme.
The unions are confident that the resources which are now in place will continue to deliver further savings.
The unions, particularly those on the peak council, are very disappointed with the fact that Jeff Shaw will no longer handle Workers' Compensation. They hope that the new Minister, Della Bosca, will have the same consultative and reasonable approach and share Jeff Shaw's vision.
This was not the only blow for WorkCover. The General Manager, John Grayson, has moved to a position in the Industrial Relations Commission. Whilst we congratulate John on his new role, he will certainly be missed.
John worked well with the unions and employers and had a very "open door" policy. He was fair and balanced in his judgements and always tried to deliver a win-win situation for unions, employers and government alike.
Unions hope the new Acting General Manager of WorkCover, Warwick McDonald, will take a leaf out of John Grayson's book.
The Government has split WorkCover between two Ministers.
But unions will vigorously oppose any move to dismantle WorkCover and hive off the occupational health and safety function back to the Department of Industrial Relations. This would be a major step backwards and would undermine the new consultative industry reference group structure established by Jeff Shaw.
This is the first time ever that unions and employers have been given a real say in occupational health and safety and workers' compensation policy agenda.
Garry Brack, Chief Executive Officer of the Employers' Federation and an employer representative on the Advisory Council states:
"In our dealings with Jeff Shaw on workers' compensation we have experienced the most positive relationship ever between business and Government.
"This has been an issue where there simply hasn't been any quick fixes and where intense debate required a preparedness to look at long haul solutions. Something we got here and have never had anywhere else. Part of the credit for this of course has to go to Bob Carr."
Garry further stated:
"In John Della Bosca we know we will be dealing with somebody who has the same capacity for leadership and we are hopeful that he will have the same long term view and continue in the same consultative vein."
Internationally, NSW is cited as having forward vision in integrating occupational health and safety and workers' compensation and other countries are contemplating ...
Charles Vandervord, the Law Society's representative on the Advisory Council stated:
"We were fortunate to have a very thoughtful and perceptive Minister who was across the issues involved in the WorkCover Scheme reform. It is hoped the new Minister will continue to consult with all the players and move forward with conscientiousness as the former Minister did."
Interview: Rebuilding from the Rubble
Ramona Mitussis, APHEDA's co-ordinator in East Timor reports on how Australian workers are contributing to rebuilding a nation.
East Timor: UN Poseurs Delay Reconstruction
Returning to the Dili compound where he spent five days under siege, HT Lee finds an aid bureacracy out of control.
Unions: The Last Bank in Minto
"It's a busy branch", Carol Davison insists, watching the crowd gather around the Commonwealth Bank branch at Minto Mall. By the time you read this, the branch will be another empty shopfront, stripped of its fittings, with junk mail starting to accumulate under the front door.
International: Workers of the World Unite
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia's keynote address to the ICFTU Congress in Durban, South Africa this week.
Olympics: Strange Tenants
Rentwatchers lifts the lid on the legacy the 2000 Games will leave on Sydney's tenants.
Politics: The Loneliness Crisis
Lindsay Tanner looks at the politics of the soul that form the backdrop of many of our social ills.
History: Songs of Solidarity
Visiting US labour acadmeic John Lund has found a new way to digest history - he commits workers' struggles to song.
Satire: Seven Launches 'Popstars' Spin-off
On the heels of Popstars comes a new show taking five minor celebrities and turning them into normal people
Review: Keating's Engagement
Whether it's analysis or self-justification, Paul Keating's new book is an engaging read.
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