The campaign against the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment Bill, passed in the Upper House of the NSW Parliament on June 29, continues.
The Federation has issued Workers Compensation Bulletin number 7 which looks at the Bill, campaign developments and the contents of a kit to be sent to all worksites.
The Bill is like a skeleton; it provides a framework for substantial changes to the operation of the Workers Compensation scheme.
1. Dispute Resolution
The legislation will establish a Workers Compensation Commission. The model is an improvement on Della Bosca's original proposal. Significant concerns remain as to how the Commission will operate and the limitations on the right to appeal and the processing of appeals.
2. WorkCover Guidelines for Assessing Impairment
The action of the unions resulted in the Government agreeing to a process of consultation on the development of these guidelines. Labor Council has nominated doctors to assist it in this process in an effort to ensure workers will not be disadvantaged. This process has not been finalised. There is a major concern that the American Guides, which have formed the basis of discussions, will seriously disadvantage workers.
The way in which psychological and psychiatric injuries will be assessed is a major concern for teachers.
3. Common Law
The Government agreed with the Labor Council that matters related to common law should be referred to an Inquiry. Justice Sheahan headed the Inquiry.
The Labor Council presented a combined submission on behalf of all unions to this Inquiry. Federation was represented on the submission writing team.
The recommendations and findings of the Inquiry will be released to the Governor on 17 August. The Government has given no time frame for its public release.
What are the unions doing?
The focus at present is on lobbying Members of Parliament. The Labor Council has coordinated delegations to various politicians. Federation will organise specific delegations for the electorates of Albury, Ballina, Barwon, Clarence, Dubbo, Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Orange, Oxley, Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Tweed. However, all Associations are encouraged to send a delegation to their local MP.
A kit has been developed to explain the Workers Compensation dispute. It also serves as speakers' notes to assist people in explaining our concerns to MPs and to others.
These kits will be included in the next mailout to worksites. Pro forma letters will be included and all schools and colleges are requested to send these to their local MP.
It is possible that further political and industrial action will be required. This will be necessary if access to common law is unfairly restricted and the guidelines for assessing workers' impairments disadvantages injured workers.
Authorised by John Hennessy, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, 2010