The Guardian 23 April, 2008
SA unions fight compensation cuts
Workers in South Australia are at risk of losing entitlements under the SA WorkCover scheme and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is not happy. In a move that has angered many people in South Australia the government wants to cut worker’s weekly payments by 20 percent while they are off work through a work-related injury.
The AMWU has been leading the wider union campaign against the state government’s move to reduce injured workers’ weekly payments.
Now the union has declared it will go after employers to make up the loss in earnings.
AMWU South Australian Secretary John Camillo said that the government’s solution to the problem of the unfunded liability — to the tune of $800 million — is unfair to workers.
"Cutting workers’ entitlements is punishing them for being injured. People who are injured at work do not deserve a cut in their pay and do not deserve to be put under financial pressure."
Mr Camillo claims that the independent consultant employed by the government to look into solving the unfunded liability issue, Alan Clayton, did not give enough weight to the unions’ submissions.
"The AMWU worked extremely hard to put in a submission which seems to have been ignored, as have all the unions."
The unions asked for $30 million to be put aside for retraining long-term injured workers.
"That’s about 3 percent of the amount that WorkCover receives from employers every year and we need to do something to retrain long-term injured workers who can’t get back to work — in order to reduce the unfunded liability."
The government has agreed to half the amount but Mr Camillo said the money will not be effective unless there is something in the legislation that compels employers to act on rehabilitating workers.
Mr Camillo said the AMWU is also angry about the government’s plans to reward employers who report workplace injuries early.
"Having a reward for employers in a bill which punishes workers for having the misfortune of being injured on the job is totally unfair." Mr Camillo warned unions would not stand by and allow workers to lose their entitlements.
"We intend to seek enterprise agreements that compel employers to cover the gap between wages and any WorkCover payments for injured workers."