SA: WorkCover Scheme to be Revamped

SafeWork SA is about to undergo an overhaul commencing today.

South Australia’s union movement is demanding the scheme revert to a system based on protecting workers, after a contentious legislative overhaul in 2008 that undermined protection to save money.

Submissions will be accepted until March 4.

Unions SA has prepared a consolidated submission on behalf of all unions that calls for major reforms. Unions SA secretary Janet Giles, who resigned from the WorkCover board in protest over the reforms, said fundamental change was needed to restore fairness to the system.

“The existing scheme has become unjust and is now one which punishes injured workers instead of helping them,” Ms Giles said. “We’ve seen cuts to payments for workers while they are recovering from injury, the creation of star chamber medical panels which make secretive decisions that can’t be appealed, and cuts to payments of people who challenge WorkCover decisions.

“We will be arguing this review is a chance for the government to make the system fairer so people who are injured at work are treated with respect, not suspicion.”

The review will consider the impact of the changes on workers who have suffered compensable disabilities and been affected by the operation of the legislation.

The 2008 changes, triggered by WorkCover’s ballooning liabilities, resulted in cuts in payments to injured workers and termination of payments.

“Our submission will show injured workers have been the innocent victims of a failed experiment by Mike Rann and Kevin Foley – the aim to increase the return-to-work rate and reduce the unfunded liability have not been achieved, yet workers have suffered enormously,” Ms Giles said.

The scheme’s most recent figures show its unfunded liability decreased from $1.298 billion in December 2008, to $911 million in December 2009.

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