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March 2006   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Workers Online speaks to the ACTU's Union Organiser of the Year, Greg Harvey from the RTBU, who has been using cutting edge ways to communicate with a blue-collar workforce spread across five states.

Industrial: How Low Is Low
Neale Towart looks at the much hyped link between minimum wages and employment

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Govwernment has begun rolling out workshops to inform employers on how to use WorkChoices. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Bad Medicine
Nathan Brown reports on how Australia Postís dodgy Faculty Nominated Doctor system is leaving sick workers feeling worse.

History: Right Turn, Clyde
Bob Gould believes news of Clyde Cameronís demise may be premature

Economics: Long Division
Kenneth Davidson looks at a successful political strategy

International: Union Proud
A University of California librarian calls for union labels to increase worker visibility

Politics: Howardís Sick Joke
Phil Doyle looks at an attack on one of the great achievements of the union movement

Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
That mob in parliament house seems to be hopelessly out of touch with Indigenous Australia. So much so, that Graham Ring wonders if the House on the Hill is becoming a Ďcultural museumí.

Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Mandrake the Electrician has been down to the video store over the summer and rounded up the Top Ten Union Movies of all time.

Culture: News Front
If the owners are selling off papers, perhaps the unions should buy them says Mark Dobbie.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Australian Fascism
Rowan Cahill critiques Gerard Hendersonís unique take on history

Parliament
Westie Wing
Will Westie's Wings be clipped, or will the Hills Angels repent and deliver?

The Locker Room
The Heart Of The Matter
Phil Doyle rolls up the red carpet and celebrates the death of an old foe

E D I T O R I A L

Home Truths
The truth has been breaking out in all sorts of strange places this week.

N E W S

 Wipeout: Minchin Surfs New Wave

 Scoop-idity: How The Truth Was Nicked

 Howard's Bastard Under Lock and Key

 Bank Shops Skilled Workers

 Debnam Dogs on Libs

 Jacko: "I'm Bad"

 Computer Strike Could Crash System

 Builders' Cleavage Strikes Gold

 Andrews Cops Legal Buffeting

 Brough Love for Women

 CFMEU Aids Escape

 Hunt on for Asbestos Crims

 Unions Counsel Queen

 Guests Get Pizza Topping

 Download a Pollie

 Activist's What's On!

L E T T E R S
 Howard, My Part In His Downfall
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Bad Medicine


Nathan Brown reports on how Australia Postís dodgy Faculty Nominated Doctor system is leaving sick workers feeling worse.

******

Have you heard the one about the injured Australia Post employee who had managers knocking on her door five minutes at a time and 14 calls in one morning because she didn't attend a company nominated doctor?

Or the company nominated doctor that came back with the same diagnosis an employer's manager had recommended?

Unfortunately, these are not jokes - only examples of the medical scheme that is out of control at Australia Post.

Australia Post's Faculty Nominated Doctors (FND) were originally intended as part of a voluntary scheme to help injured workers return to work on duties they are able to do.

However, recent testimony from injured staff indicates people are being pressured to attend faculty nominated doctors and harassed if they don't attend that doctor.

Disturbingly, management is in contact with doctors talking about your consultation - talking about what jobs you can do, how long you'll be off and your medical conditions.

The scheme is being used to deny compensation entitlements to injured workers.

It's saving Post money, at the expense of worker's rights.

What's Up, Doc?

The CEPU (Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union) is aware of several instances where the communications between management and the "independent" faculty nominated doctors has been nothing short of questionable.

In one instance a manager supplied a faculty nominated doctor a form, which included his own diagnosis:

"Employee walked into a dust cloud of Bi-carbonate soda. Says has sore throat. No other employees affected. Political issue to support PIN issued unlawfully under OHS Act. May have a cold."

As, the CEPU's Dan Dwyer told the Industrial Relations Commission: "before the doctor has even examined the person, the manager put all these thoughts into the mind of the doctor".

A statement by a manager in another case details his discussions with a doctor following an employee examination:

"I have spoken to Dr Lieng (Injury NET FND) regarding his examination of you on that day...He recalled that you were in a great deal of pain when he examined you on 22 February 2005 but felt you might be able to return to work on the following day."

The statement then details the various people at Australia Post who have got their hands on the employee's medical certificate without the employee's permission - namely the Australia Post Reconsideration Officer and employee's the supervisor.

Numerous other cases reveal, time after time, managers and supervisors have requested to speak to doctors and have medical certificates faxed over without employee's consent.

House Calls

Faculty Nominated Doctors were meant to be there as a voluntary service for employees.

If a worker prefers, they should be able to see their own doctor without any threat to compensation and certainly without any victimisation.

However, the reality is far different.

In evidence before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, one employee revealed a manager told her she had to see a Faculty Nominated Doctor.

After refusing, the employee received 14 phone calls from management between 7.54am and 11.51am.

Then at noon, management turned up to her house, hanging around for 15 minutes and twice knocking on her door five minutes at a time.

Before giving up, they left a notice directing the employee to attend an FND.

A frequent complaint from employees is that management is not only telling them they must attend FNDs - but not attending FNDs may threaten their workers compensation claims.

The irony is when employees do attend FNDs they are stripped of workers compensation entitlements.

In Senate Estimates it was revealed when employees go to their own doctors 95 per cent are declared unfit, when they visit FNDs, just six per cent are declared unfit.

The Second Opinion

On a Friday morning in January, Robert Hull pulled into the Murray Region Mail Sorting Centre at Wagga from Canberra.

When he climbed into the back of the truck he felt a sharp pain in his left leg.

Unable to put any weight on his leg, the Centre's local staff unloaded the truck for him.

Although in pain, he was still able to drive the truck and continued on his run to Wagga and back to Canberra.

In Canberra, he was given a claim form and told to go to the emergency department in Calvary Hospital.

A doctor at the hospital told Hull to see his general practitioner for a referral for an ultrasound.

His GP gave him a medical certificate for a week off work and a referral for an ultrasound, which revealed a torn muscle to his left calf.

While waiting to see his GP, Hull got a call from his supervisor telling him an appointment had been arranged to see a FND.

Hull didn't see any harm in seeing the FND, after all his GP had already given him time off.

But the FND took a different view from Hull's GP and said Hull was okay to go back to work on restricted duties for two hours a day.

The FND allegedly told Hull that his hands were tied and he was an Australia Post employee for "you people".

Hull did not go to work, taking the advice of his own doctor.

However, Australia Post took the advice of the FND, and because Hull did not turn up to work he was denied compensation.

Diagnosis Pending

Citing these examples, the CEPU have argued before the IRC Australia Post have used the so-called voluntary scheme to cut down on a figure referred to as "lost time injuries" and as a defacto workers compensation scheme.

"There's a deliberate scheme to manipulate workers compensation claims," Dwyer told the commission. "It's systematic. It just reeks of corruption," he said.

The Commission has reserved its decision.


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