Review of Accident Compensation Act

April 2008

A Chance to Improve Compo

The Victorian Government has commissioned eminent QC Peter Hanks to comprehensively review the Victorian Accident Compensation Act 1985.  The Review is long overdue. The last thorough review of compensation in Victoria was undertaken by Barney Cooney in 1984.

The Accident Compensation Act was introduced in 1985 and after 1992, when Kennett got into government it was changed, approximately every 6 months, mostly taking away rights for injured workers.

The Accident Compensation Act needs a complete overhaul. How injured workers are compensated, how they are treated, what 'return to work' processes are effective, what level of payments are fair etc.  Such questions also have to be addressed if the Review is to be worthwhile. 

Most of us don’t think about workers’ compensation until we are injured or somebody we know is injured, the meat industry has one of the worst records of all industries for injuries. Abattoirs, boning rooms, smallgoods manufacture, packing, gas flushing, skin sheds, meat rooms in retail and rendering are all workplaces with far too many injuries and illnesses. This means that the changes that happen to the compensation system are important to you.
 
AMIEU Secretary, Graham Bird is one of the people who helped to design the 1985 laws and he is participating in the review that is going on now.

Some of the things that we are arguing for include:

  • Weekly payments and medical expenses should be paid earlier not later. Currently it can take up to 45 days before weekly payments are made, we want them to be paid in 7 days.
  • We want to increase the level of weekly payments. If you can’t work currently you receive weekly payments at 95% for 13 weeks and then 75% of your average pay. After 26 weeks WorkCover pay is 75% of your base rate (no penalty rates). For example a butcher who always works Wednesday to Sunday earns close to $1000.00 a week. If this butcher is so badly injured that he/she can never work again the pay will drop down to $555.00 after 6 months. It is not fair that the workers who worked every weekend and who are most seriously injured get paid a lower percentage than others.
  • We want WorkCover to be 100% of your average pay for 52 weeks and then 80% for 260 weeks if you still have a partial incapacity i.e. you can’t go back to your pre injury duties.
  • We don’t want weekly payments to cut out automatically after 130 weeks for workers when it is claimed that they have “a current work capacity” to undertake “suitable alternative employment” when such jobs don’t exist.
  • Injured workers and their treating doctors should be involved in the development of their own Return to Work plans, not just have it decided by the Return to Work Co-ordinator and management without the worker’s involvement/agreement. We think that you (the injured worker) and your treating doctors should be involved in the decisions and that you should be able to have your own representatives (job delegates or health & safety representatives) in such discussions.
  • If workers are no longer able to do the kind of work from before being injured, we want real retraining offered (not only Mickey Mouse training) and help with getting work. After all we see proposals such as training to be “School Crossing Co-ordinator” i.e. the lolly-pop person at the lights!
  • We also want improvements with regards permanent injuries and lump sums.

These aren’t all the improvements that we want; but you can see some of the things that your Union is arguing for.
 
We need to make sure that the Brumby Government improves the Compensation Act.

If this means that we need to campaign actively, as well as talking and making submissions, it will need your active involvement.