Issue #1564 12 September 2012
The union makes us strong
One has to ask the question about union membership and its importance to the working class. We read daily about tragic circumstances and what happens to people who are either hurt at work or made redundant through no cause of their own.
One person that I know fairly well found himself in quite a serious situation when he was injured on his way to work and learnt that he had no workers’ comp available to him due to recent changes made by the government that took away coverage of people who are hurt either on their way to or from work.
My young friend had started a mature age apprenticeship at a major mining and construction equipment manufacturer as a diesel plant mechanic at a country NSW dealership. The same hard working young man has a wife and two small children to provide for and on the day of his accident he was on his way to work in the morning on his motorbike when he had to swerve to miss a kangaroo and fell off his bike injuring himself quite badly. He has compressed fracture of his lower spine and shoulder damage as well as knee problems.
It now seems that his apprenticeship could be in jeopardy as his employer will not allow him to return to work until he is fully fit for duty. He has had to survive on what annual leave and sick pay he had accrued over the short time he had worked for this company. One thing that was pointed out to my friend is that he should have looked into income protection. At the urging of his wife he found out that he was entitled to some degree of financial support. This has made things a lot easier for my friend and his family who were on the verge of asking for help from family members.
Had my young friend joined the union when it was first suggested he would be entitled to, firstly, legal support if his employer tried to dump him because of his injury. Some worksites have organised their own sickness and accident fund that are managed by the workers and it works very well. This is a common thing that happens to workers after their compo at work has run its course; the company decides that carrying an injured worker is not the way to go and the injured person is thrown to the wolves to defend for themselves.
It is so important that all workers join a union not only for on the job protection but all the other benefits that come with union membership. For example a one-off payment of $12 to a mining union that represents thousands of miners in the Hunter coalfields on retirement will see that person’s funeral cost covered by the union. The union can also organise and manage the workers’ superannuation funds if so desired, all very important stuff for the working masses.
My friend’s future is on the line now and his prospects are not all that bright so to all who read this, if you are working somewhere and currently not a union member do yourself a big favour and join a union that has coverage on your worksite as soon as you can as I fear that we as workers will be under attack from our supposedly worker friendly federal government soon.
One thing that has happened is no coverage travelling to and from work if hurt and the other is the amount of money that people can salary sacrifice has been slashed to now a maximum of $25,000 per year. For those who can afford to salary sacrifice some of their wages this comes as a real kick in the guts from the so-called worker-friendly Labor government.
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