Proposed changes to the Workers Compensation Act introduced in a bill into the Legislative Assembly by Minister for Finance Services Greg Pearce yesterday are even worse than foreshadowed in the May issue of depaNews and were described by the Secretary of UnionsNSW Mark Lennon as “appalling”.

"Whether it be caps on medical payments, the ability to get lump-sum compensation, the removal of journey claims, it is simply an appalling attack on workers benefits", he said.  depa is an affiliate to UnionsNSW and we couldn't agree more. It's a huge erosion of your rights at work and protection for sick and injured workers. 

But what makes it all worse is that the proposed changes are now announced to be retrospective and will affect claims already in the system. This, in itself, is unprecedented.

We argued for better management of the system and more control of costs in May but with the Shooters and the Christian Democrats (the Fred Nile group) having already given the principles the nod, we can expect the bill to be legislated in the next week or so and within the current financial year.  (Odd bedfellows you might think but it could be worse - the Shooters might want to shoot sick and injured workers and the Christian Democrats might want to pray for them.)

There are many, many examples of people whose lives are ruined by injuries at work but now, if you get injured on your way to work or your way home, however that occurs and whomever is responsible for the accident, you will not be covered by workers compensation. Sitting quietly at a set of traffic lights on your way to start work and you get rear-ended by someone paying less attention, and you will be on your own.

It's more than appalling, it's disgraceful. The Liberal/National Party Coalition always rails against the links between Labor and the union movement and cries "class war" in response to open and logical debate about things like mining taxes, the ability of millionaires/billionaires to avoid their taxation obligations etc but no-one wages class war like the Coalition.

Anyone can be injured at work and anyone can be injured on their way to or from work. Contact your local member, particularly if they are a member of the Coalition Government, and tell them it's not fair. Ask them to explain why accidents that occur only because you are a worker travelling to or from work should be removed from coverage under the Workers Compensation Act.

What is it with the GMs at councils in the Hunter region? How could they not be benign and contented people with all that fabulous Hunter Valley semillon and shiraz? Why is it that when the Commission recommended that they provide details to depa to allow us to have an informed debate about what really happened in the trial of the Industry Guidelines at the five councils, that the four Hunter Councils refused to supply the information?

It would be easy to say that the GMs don't understand that to have an informed debate you need information. It could be that they've been snowed by HR Managers who want to assert that there is evidence of a deterrent effect but don't want to back that up by providing proper evidence.  It could be of course, that they know there is no evidence but they want to keep asserting it anyway.

Debate and disagreement continues between the LGSA and the unions about how the Industry Guidelines, agreed between all of us and tested in the trial in the last six months or so of last year, should be changed as a result of the trial. When the Industry Guidelines were prepared there was unanimous agreement between the LGSA and the three unions that random drug testing only had a place for employees who had already tested positive either in a post-incident or reasonable-suspicion test. But the LGSA and the USU at some stage during the trial (and even before the survey of employees participating in the trial) changed the view to support random testing being an option for everyone - not based on risk, not based on reasonable suspicion, not based on incidents. Both organisations claimed that there was evidence that having random testing deterred many people from doing things they had historically done.

We are open-minded. We entered the trial with no expectation at all about what would be discovered but, like everyone else, were a bit surprised when the random testing regime chosen as an "option" for the trial by the five councils didn't turn up anyone.  No drugs anywhere, and no alcohol positive testing either.

The Minister for Primary Industry in the NSW Government is Katrina Hodgkinson and in response to a request from the new Minister for some better and more equal gender representation on the NSW Food Regulation Forum, we invited female members to apply in the March depaNews.  And we received a few expressions of interest too. Thanks to those who gave us a call.

The Committee of Management in May resolved to continue our representation through President Andrew Spooner and to appoint food safety activist Jody Houston from Manly Council.

We welcome and thank Jody for her interest.


Those of you who keep an eye on BPB Bulletins would have noticed in the last one that the BPB had met with depa as part of their feedback to stakeholders about the recent barnstorming of the State on proposed changes to the accrediting of Council employees.

We (VP Jamie Loader, Committee of Management member Jim Boyce and I) met with representatives of the Board (Neil Cocks, Jonathon Lynch and consultant Rosemary Naughton) on 5 June and, amongst other things, put to them the feedback we have been receiving from members about the need to review the March 2013 deadline.

We subsequently formalised this request and supported the selection of five or six councils, broadly representative of councils across the state, where the real implications of the proposed changes in March 2013 could be tested. This has been referred by the Board to the Policy Committee which meets in the next week or so.


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