05:58 pm, Wednesday 13 December, 2006
By Denis Peters
SEVERAL more big employers have been given permission to self-insure for workers’ compensation, allowing them to move out of the traditional state systems.
The Federal Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC) announced it had given approval to National Australia Bank Ltd, National Wealth Management Services Ltd and three John Holland group companies to become self-insured.
These companies will join others such as LinFox, Telstra, Pacific National and CSL Ltd which have moved within the realm of the Commonwealth Workers’ Compensation Scheme (CWCS).
Companies must convince the SRCC that they are in competition with current or former Commonwealth authorities to be eligible.
The passage of amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) Act 1991 this year made the moves from state systems possible.
“The commission was satisfied that these companies met the requirements of the legislation in respect of the management of workers’ compensation claims and the standards set by the commission for the rehabilitation and occupational health and safety of their employees,” SRCC chairman Les Taylor said.
The ACTU is passionately opposed to the new regime, saying it could mean substantially reduced payouts for injured workers and significantly lower the national standard of workplace health and safety.
“Unions are very concerned that health and safety protections for workers are typically much lower in the federal system and that payouts for permanently injured workers are also much less,” ACTU president Sharan Burrow said.
“For example, the amount payable to a paraplegic is around 30-40 per cent less under Comcare than under Victoria’s workers’ compensation system,” she said.
“And for a worker who loses a thumb and forefinger in a workplace accident, the payment under Comcare is $66,000 – around $50,000 less than the NSW State compensation payout of $114,000 and also much less than Victoria’s $107,000.”
Ms Burrow said the CWCS and OHS system was not set up to deal with building industry employers like John Holland.
“Australia’s construction industry is very dangerous and many workers continue to lose their lives in unnecessary workplace accidents,” she said.
“It is appalling that the Federal Government would allow companies like John Holland to shop around for a cheaper workers’ compensation system.
“These companies are moving out of the state and territory compensation systems so that they can cut costs and evade stronger health and safety regulations.”
“But the people who will suffer from this new move by the Howard Government are going to be workers who are injured.”
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