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  Issue No 90 Official Organ of LaborNet 30 March 2001  

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News

Compo Wars: Round One to the Workers


The Carr Government has abandoned its plans to ram workers compensation laws through State Parliament before Easter but faces a concerted campaign spearheaded by injured workers over the coming weeks.

 
 

Pat Portlock: Standing up for his mates

The back-down came after a meeting with Labor Council officials and affiliates on Thursday, two days after Industrial relations Minister John Della Bosca announced sweeping changes to the system without any formal consultation with the trade union movement.

At an angry Labor Council meeting, Della Bosca was condemned for the process and substance of the package, which seeks to import the Draconian motor accidents scheme into workers compensation.

A string of unions threatened to take direct industrial action if Della Bosca does not use the four and a half week negotiation period he agreed to to make significant changes to the legislation.

The CFMEU and Transport Workers have already foreshadowed strike action, with 500 building workers voting to endorse the Labor Council campaign with a series of rolling stoppages over the coming weeks, while transport workers consider stoppages from Monday.

US style system

The key concerns centre around plans to reduce the appeal rights of workers and change the industry assessment process to one based on the United States.

Affiliates were briefed by labour lawyer Richard Brennan who said the current reform was worse than the 1987 package introduced by the former Unsworth Government.

The following were highlighted as examples where workers rights would be diminished:

- changing the threshold for common law claims. Currently a worker can sue an employer if they lose 25 per cent of a body part; under the new scheme they can only take common law action of they lose 25 per cent of their 'whole of body'. Brennan says this knocks out all but the most serious cases - quadraplegia and severe brain damage.

- the American assessment system has been introduced for motor accident victims and has consistently worked to reduce payments for pain and suffering. This has been migrated into workers compensation.

- binding panels will decide the extent of injuries, with those sitting not even needing to be qualified medical practitioners. Workers will not have the right to appeal a determination in court.

Workers Hit Across the Movement

Unions expressing concern last night included both blue collar and white collar unions and said the handling of workers compensation had been a breach of trust with the working people who had got them elected.

CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson said his members were being asked to pay for the WorkCover's failure to ensure compliance in the industry.

"Because of this failure to manage the WorkCover scheme my members are now being asked to pay through reduced benefits. They will not cop it"

Fire Brigade Union secretary Chris Read said his members were already considering strike action over the government's failure to agree to decent death and disability payments and this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

"We are not just concerned, we are bloody disgusted at the contemptuous manner we have been treated," Read said

Textile Clothing and Footwear union state secretary barry tubner added that his members, working with chemicals and exposed to horrendous skin diseases would also slip through the net.

Stress Claims Attacked Too

White-collar workers would also be hit, with claims for psychological stress also being cut out of the system.

Finance Sector Union state secretary Jeff Derrick says bank workers exposed to hold-ups would no longer be able to access pain and suffering compensation over the changes.

Derrick says he has one member who has been involved in 17 armed hold-ups and could no longer work in a bank. She would miss out too.

And Teachers Federation delegate Joan Lemere said she had members who had been working with psychologically disturbed adolescents and are physically attacked would also miss out on being compensated.

Breach of Trust

Della Bosca's move in introducing the legislation on Thursday night after promising to delay it until next week also drew heavy censure.

Australian Workers Union state president Mick Maddern said that Della Bosca has always been regarded in the movement as "a man of his word - until now".

"He broke his word," Maddern said, " and we should never trust him again".

Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O'Sullivan was in typical acerbic form, saying that unions had remained silent over the previous six years when the government had done things against the movement's interest.

"I say to Bob Carr and John Della Bosca - you do not deserve the charity of our silence and you are not going to get it".

Campaign to Gather Scheme

The campaign against the changes will gather steam with radio and newspaper advertisements highlighting the impact of the changes on working people.

A series of workers who have suffered accidents will spearhead the campaign, driving home the message that the cuts will add to the human tragedy of workplace deaths.

Pat Portlock, who lost the lower half of his leg when a crane collapsed on him earlier this year while working on the M5 East project, is one of the workers who will participate.

Portlock, who took to the streets over the 1987 reforms, told last night's Labor Council that he had been appalled to learn a Labor Government had proposed these changes.

"I mightn't get five bob out of this now," Portlock says, "I'd like to see them grow me another leg".

For full coverage of the Compo dispute, keep an eye on the LaborNet campaign page at http://www.labor.net.au/compo

The back-down came after a meeting with Labor Council officials and affiliates on Thursday, two days after Industrial relations Minister John Della Bosca announced sweeping changes to the system without any formal consultation with the trade union movement.

At an angry Labor Council meeting, Della Bosca was condemned for the process and substance of the package, which seeks to import the Draconian motor accidents scheme into workers compensation.

A string of unions threatened to take direct industrial action if Della Bosca does not use the four and a half week negotiation period he agreed to to make significant changes to the legislation.

The CFMEU and Transport Workers have already foreshadowed strike action, with 500 building workers voting to endorse the Labor Council campaign with a series of rolling stoppages over the coming weeks, while transport workers consider stoppages from Monday.

US style system

The key concerns centre around plans to reduce the appeal rights of workers and change the industry assessment process to one based on the United States.

Affiliates were briefed by labour lawyer Richard Brennan who said the current reform was worse than the 1987 package introduced by the former Unsworth Government.

The following were highlighted as examples where workers rights would be diminished:

- changing the threshold for common law claims. Currently a worker can sue an employer if they lose 25 per cent of a body part; under the new scheme they can only take common law action of they lose 25 per cent of their 'whole of body'. Brennan says this knocks out all but the most serious cases - quadraplegia and severe brain damage.

- the American assessment system has been introduced for motor accident victims and has consistently worked to reduce payments for pain and suffering. This has been migrated into workers compensation.

- binding panels will decide the extent of injuries, with those sitting not even needing to be qualified medical practitioners. Workers will not have the right to appeal a determination in court.

Workers Hit Across the Movement

Unions expressing concern last night included both blue collar and white collar unions and said the handling of workers compensation had been a breach of trust with the working people who had got them elected.

CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson said his members were being asked to pay for the WorkCover's failure to ensure compliance in the industry.

"Because of this failure to manage the WorkCover scheme my members are now being asked to pay through reduced benefits. They will not cop it"

Fire Brigade Union secretary Chris Read said his members were already considering strike action over the government's failure to agree to decent death and disability payments and this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

"We are not just concerned, we are bloody disgusted at the contemptuous manner we have been treated," Read said

Textile Clothing and Footwear union state secretary barry tubner added that his members, working with chemicals and exposed to horrendous skin diseases would also slip through the net.

Stress Claims Attacked Too

White-collar workers would also be hit, with claims for psychological stress also being cut out of the system.

Finance Sector Union state secretary Jeff Derrick says bank workers exposed to hold-ups would no longer be able to access pain and suffering compensation over the changes.

Derrick says he has one member who has been involved in 17 armed hold-ups and could no longer work in a bank. She would miss out too.

And Teachers Federation delegate Joan Lemere said she had members who had been working with psychologically disturbed adolescents and are physically attacked would also miss out on being compensated.

Breach of Trust

Della Bosca's move in introducing the legislation on Thursday night after promising to delay it until next week also drew heavy censure.

Australian Workers Union state president Mick Maddern said that Della Bosca has always been regarded in the movement as "a man of his word - until now".

"He broke his word," Maddern said, " and we should never trust him again".

Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O'Sullivan was in typical acerbic form, saying that unions had remained silent over the previous six years when the government had done things against the movement's interest.

"I say to Bob Carr and John Della Bosca - you do not deserve the charity of our silence and you are not going to get it".

Campaign to Gather Scheme

The campaign against the changes will gather steam with radio and newspaper advertisements highlighting the impact of the changes on working people.

A series of workers who have suffered accidents will spearhead the campaign, driving home the message that the cuts will add to the human tragedy of workplace deaths.

Pat Portlock, who lost the lower half of his leg when a crane collapsed on him earlier this year while working on the M5 East project, is one of the workers who will participate.

Portlock, who took to the streets over the 1987 reforms, told last night's Labor Council that he had been appalled to learn a Labor Government had proposed these changes.

"I mightn't get five bob out of this now," Portlock says, "I'd like to see them grow me another leg".

For full coverage of the Compo dispute, keep an eye on the LaborNet campaign page at http://www.labor.net.au/compo


------

*    Visit the LaborNet Compo background page

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 90 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: On the Up and Up
On the eve of new figures showing the slide in union membership may be bottoming out, ACTU secretary Greg Combet takes stock of the state of the movement.
*
*  Unions: Organising Theory
Labor Council’s Chris Christodoulou reports back from this week’s ACTU Organising Conference
*
*  Economics: The Failure of the Third Way
In his presentation to this week's ACTU Organising Conference, John Buchanan painted a dark picture of the emerging labour market.
*
*  History: Emblems of Unity
The Gregory J. Smith Collection of Trade Union badges was auctioned today in Sydney. Smith compiled a book on 763 of his remarkable collection which was published in 1992.
*
*  Legal: Della's Compo Plan
Labour lawyer Richard Brennan places the NSW workers compensation reforms under the microscope.
*
*  International: East Timor Goes Union
Workers in the fledgling nation have established their equivalent to the ACTU to build a safety net for workers.
*
*  Satire: Management for the Post-Industrial World
A new management fad is sweeping the post-industrial world, which has major social and political implications at the macro and micro level. We have called it "Purge Management Strategy" (PMS).
*
*  Review: Surviving The Temptations of TV Island
Cultural analyst Mark Morey rakes over the coals of American TV culture to find very little is there.
*

News
»  Compo Wars: Round One to the Workers
*
»  Breakthrough on Sweat-Shops
*
»  Beazley to Force Executive Disclosure
*
»  Call Centre Union Busters Get Wake-Up Call
*
»  Victorious Workers Paint the Picket Red
*
»  Grenadier Workers Maintain Vigil
*
»  Kembla Water Rats Face Extinction
*
»  Employers Told: Casual Workers Have Full-Time Rights
*
»  Good On Ya Mum, Buttercup’s Leaving Town
*
»  Forty Seven Years of Service Rewarded
*
»  Telstra Called to Account on Legionella
*
»  Record Low Aussie Dollar Adds to Surging Profits
*
»  No Progress on Stonemasons
*
»  Burrow Lobbies on BHP and US Trade Abroad
*
»  Feed the Shangri-La Workers Fund
*
»  STOP PRESS: Union Numbers Up - ABS
*

Columns
»  The Soapbox
*
»  The Locker Room
*
»  Trades Hall
*
»  Tool Shed
*

Letters to the editor
»  Crumby Company
*

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