The Acting President, Com. R. Mallia occupied the Chair.

PRESENT:  M. Morey [Secretary], E. Maiden [Assistant Secretary].

OPENING OF THE MEETING:  The Acting President, Com. R. Mallia opened the meeting and in doing so recognised the traditional owners of the land on which the meeting was held, The Gadigal People of the Eora Nation. 

APOLOGIES:  Apologies were received and accepted for:  J. Kiejda (President), M. Thomson (NTEU), T. Costa (Assistant Secretary).

Due to the late sitting of Parliament apologies were received from:
Clayton Barr, Member for Cessnock, Shadow Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Labor Party (Statement submitted),
Mark Pearson, MLC, Animal Justice Party, Yasmin Catley, Member for Swansea, Shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Labor Party, Philip Donato, Member for Orange, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The Secretary, Com. M. Morey moved:

"That the apologies be received and accepted".

Com. A. Claassens (RTBU) seconded.


The Acting President, Com. R. Mallia welcomed everyone to this very special Labor Council Meeting 'Justice for Injured Workers : 5 Years On'.

Tonight we will hear from several injured workers whose lives have been affected through the unjust changes to the workers compensation laws.

 Acting President introduced Mark Morey, Secretary, Unions NSW to address the meeting.

The Secretary said it is now 5 years ago that the cuts to workers' compensation took NSW from having the best workers compensation system to having the worst.

The main changes were:

  1. Removal of workers' compensation coverage for trips to and from work;
  2. Reduction of weekly payments to injured workers;
  3. Cessation of weekly payments for most injured workers after 2 !/2 years;
  4. Capping medical payments for injured workers;
  5. Removal of coverage of heart attacks and strokes;
  6. Stopping partners of those killed at work from claiming for nervous shock;
  7. Stopping lump sum payments for pain and suffering; and
  8. Lumping workers with the legal costs of pursuing a claim.

All of these changes were retrospective, even affecting workers who had won or settled cases for ongoing income or medical support.

Over the 6 week period from the Government tabling a discussion paper to legislation passing Parliament on 22 June 2012, Unions NSW waged a massive campaign to oppose the cuts.

Since then, Unions NSW ongoing campaign with the Injured Workers Support Network has been successful at winning some significant changes.  These include:

  • Increasing the medical cap from 1 year to 2-5 years depending on the severity of the injury;
  • Some coverage of secondary surgery outside these limits in certain circumstances;
  • Reducing the threshold for serious injury (lifetime cover) by one-third (from 31% to 21% WPI);
  • Re-introducing a form of free legal representation for some claims (ILARS);
  • Separating the conflicted insurance and regulatory functions of WorkCover (into ICare, SIRA and SafeWork NSW); and
  • Lifetime cover for crutches, artificial limbs and hearing aids, home/vehicle modifications.

But the workers compensation system remains grossly unfair.

  • Tens of thousands of injured workers have lost medical cover.
  • Just 4% of workers in the scheme are eligible to receive income support after five years.
  • Medical procedures need to be pre-approved by an insurance clerk, not a treating doctor, causing delays and refusal of necessary treatment.
  • Payments are reduced or cut-off based on the income an injured worker could earn as determined by the insurer - even if no work is available.
  • The longer people are in the workers compensation system, the more likely they are to have suicidal thoughts.  Our research suggests this is as high as 25%.

Unions NSW wants justice for injured workers.

The workers compensation system is broken and it needs to be re-built on our 12 principles of workers compensation reform.

Until we can achieve that we are prioritising 5 changes to the workers compensation.  These are:

  • Abolishing the 5 year limit on benefits.  This will see thousands of workers who are still injured and unable to find comparable work cut off all income support from October this year. That's 3,000 injured workers and their families.
  • Add reality to the definition of suitable employment.
  • Boost return to work rates.  An injured worker should only be allowed to be terminated when their treating doctor certified their best chance of returning to work is with another employer.
  • Prohibit prospective employers from asking if a worker has a workers compensation history.
  • Reinstate journey claim cover.

We are asking the MPs here today to commit to our 12 principles and the 5 priority areas.

The Acting President, Rita Mallia thanked Mark Morey for his address and introduced the next Speaker Jonis Revelos an injured worker to tell his story.

Jonis Revelos' Story

 My name Jonis Revelos, I’m here with my wife Rosaria, I live in St Clair, and come the first of January I’m not going to have an income. During my working-life I have had two major injures from my workplace. 

The first was in 1994 where I crushed my lumber spine. That was settled in 1999 and returned to work in 2000 after surgery and a spinal fusion.  I took care of myself after that but in 2004 while working on the M7 build (I passed a full medical before I started by the way), I had another injury – lifting a rain soaked 6b4 six metre log handed to me from three meters below. My back broke again and the titanium bolts in my back snapped so loudly the other workers could hear them go.  

Eight years waiting for surgery with the last four of those years being bed ridden, I had the surgery in 2012 before the new laws came in and I get through my day with morphine and my wife who is my full-time carer.  

So, that’s how I came onto workers compensation again. Five years have gone past. On October 16 last year I was told that come January 1 2018 I was going to be cut off from my weekly benefits. This came after their Doctor said the following:

 “I agree with the impairment assessment of 20% WPI and agree with the reduction finding for pre-existing condition of 50%. This results in an impairment assessment of 10% WPI. His condition is stable. In his present condition, he is unfit for his pre-injury duties. That is not an option. He is on morphine.”

They aren't including the first injury, they aren't including that the new injury wiped out the surgery and the recovery of the first surgery.

I’ve been told to access Centrelink. I can’t access Centrelink till 2022. This is because of the 1999 payout for my first injury. That would have been fine if the financial crisis hadn’t hit and my investments, meant to last my lifetime, were wiped out.  So, come 2018 I’m not going to have an income.  

I want to be guaranteed that come the first of January I am going to have an income. I need to know that my family isn’t going to struggle to have food on the table, pay my bills and look after my kids. 

The Acting President Rita Mallia thanked John for his address and introduced the next speaker Rowan Kernebone from the Injured Workers Support Network.

Rowan Kernebone – Injured Workers Support Network

 I’d like to thank Unions NSW for inviting me to speak tonight on a topic that has been encompassing my life for the last three years. As I was introduced, I am the current coordinator of the Injured Workers Support Network.

 Monday this week marked the fourth injured worker’s day. A day chosen as it is the anniversary of the O’Farrell governments passing of their worst attempt at assisting our friends and family if they are injured at work.

 The cornerstone of this legislation is their aim to reduce the numbers of people who receive assistance. The statutory cut-off date, which we are focusing on tonight, is a prime example of this regression. A regression that six thousand and more members of our suburbs and towns will feel before next financial year ends.

For them their problems have just started. For this government, their plans, passed in the middle of the night in 2012, will come to fruition.

The impact will not only be felt by the injured workers and their families. Our suburban and rural economies are going to lose one hundred million dollars by the end of April 2018 as the government strips $400 from the weekly pay packets of those injured workers affected. The vast majority will not be eligible for the disability support pension. Because of this they will not be able to access other forms of assistance from disability employment services or the NDIS.

 As I am preparing the IWSN for a new phase I have returned to a question I had in the two weeks prior to taking up this role three years ago and consistently since then. Why. Why has a government pursued this policy despite the social, economic and medical evidence that their system would falter and harm injured workers? A reality they have tried to alleviate three times over the past four years through changes in their laws, regulations, departmental splits and cultural change programs. Why are we here?

 The current election cycle dictates that policy regeneration is the main task of politicians and political parties as March 2019 edges closer. As they do formulate new and revise old policies I think this is the best time to share my conclusions to that answer. This may be the last time I am able to give advice to our ruling class so here we go.

This government believes that they can divide people into the deserving and undeserving. This belief is a fallacy.

There is no equation, no research model, and no great thinking that can differentiate the deserving from the undeserving.

Since the 18th century researchers, academics, philosophers, lawyers, doctors, politicians and more have found it to be a false equation. The outcomes of their campaigns can be seen in our health policies, our education policies, judiciary and security; our very human rights are formulated on the understanding that this equation is a fallacy. My own profession of welfare work is founded on this reality.

 Unfortunately, the equation is having a resurgence in our 21st century world. Its entrenchment is evident in all areas of the worker’s compensation legislation and throughout this year, injured workers are being put through that equation.

 If their total body impairment is greater than 20%, they are classified as deserving. Below this figure they are undeserving. The legislative equation between these three pen strokes on paper does not consider anything other than a medical test which, for some injuries are nearly impossible to apply with accuracy and does not include issues that are legislated as peripheral, if in your struggle to recover you develop a psychological illness you are undeserving, pain from injuries also considered undeserving, your personal suffering or that of your family? This government has applied the equation and found that this is undeserving.

The very fact that speaking of the one hundred-million-dollar loss to our suburban economies may not pass the pub test because it is “compensation” rather than money earned through the immediacy of a days work speaks of our individual acceptance at this blatantly false equation should be made.

We are here because of this false equation. People whose working lives have come to an abrupt end as they live with the consequences of an acquired disability, acquired while working to make this state great and enhance the pay packets of their executive and shareholders know too well that this equation is false and as you the politicians and you the unions and you the injured worker and all of you as voters work go home and make decisions about your own personal policies I want you to remember this the equation between deserving and undeserving is a false equation and we need to push back against anyone who wishes to impose it through legislation.

 The Acting President Rita Mallia thanked Rowan and introduced Steve Wilson another injured worker to tell his story.

 Steve Wilson

My name is Steve and I’m here with my wife Gabe. I have two daughters and five grand-children. I live in Barraba in Northern NSW.  I am 61.  I have spent my working life in the mining industry and worked at my place of injury for 20 years. I was employed as a production supervisor/boilermaker doing heavy industrial mining construction.  I was employed from when the first tree was felled to begin work on the processing plant which I was involved in building.

I continued working at the site as a production supervisor/maintenance boilermaker.  The factory burnt to the ground during this time and I was again employed to reconstruct the factory and the mining equipment.  The work was often heavy manufacturing with little regard for safe lifting or safe work practice.

My first injury was when I was only 28 with a young family. I injured by back changing a large a large tyre from a mining front end loader by myself without proper equipment.  I returned to work and my injury flared up many times but light duties and recovery were not practiced as a rule and I returned to work most of the time before I was ready in order to earn an income and not put my job in jeopardy.  I suffered many flare ups and in March 2001 I injured my back again while welding in a bent, crouched position and have never returned to full time work since that day.  I used all my sick leave and long service leave trying to stay employed and during the long fight with Insurance companies I have had to use my meagre superannuation to keep on top of mortgage payments. During the time between my first injury and the second injury I continued to work despite the pain caused by flare ups because the company was sold several times and I didn’t want to be made redundant because of my injury.  No light duties were ever provided as the work was either construction, running the plant as a supervisor which meant climbing ladders and fitting into small spaces to weld, working on the packing floor lifting 10kg bags all day or driving the fork lift which meant climbing on and off all day which aggravated my back.  I had no choice but to work and take time off using my holidays and long service when I felt too sore to carry on.  I was not offered treatment by the Insurer and didn’t receive back surgery until 2012 which was another long battle – the surgery has not helped with pain or improvement of the injury.  As I had a family to provide for and a mortgage and living expenses to pay I had to do the best I could to work without hurting myself and being unable to go to work.  This struggle and the worry that went with it, the constant pain and feeling of helplessness have impacted on my health in other ways.  I have chronic pain syndrome and major depression.  I can only say that my family and the invaluable treatment from my General Practitioner are the only reasons for my survival to date.  I have been fortunate to have the same General Practitioner for the duration of this ordeal and that has been the reason I have coped and had the correct medical help to date. I have battled for my rights from 2001 and have been to the Workers Compensation Court to have a settlement awarded – I chose to take wages and medical costs until the age of 66 as my solicitor advised – she said and I knew, that I would need further medical intervention during my life.  

When the 2012 changes occurred that changed my future again.  I have since battled insurers at each step of the way going for Merit Review twice and having Insurer decisions overturned.  I have had so many case managers and different Insurance Companies overseeing my case that I have lost count.  I have never been able to extend over 16 hours per week work with heavy restrictions and assistance from my wife and after two battles which I have won without legal representation I am still receiving wages.  I attended at Insurer request yet another IME in February with a medico legal who shrugged his shoulders and said this was the end because there were too many people doing the wrong thing and its come to this…his empathy was overwhelming.  When he reached for that one big book from the window sill it literally fell open to his favourite page all by itself – the one with the magic impairment schedule.  I have been assessed at 15% whole person impairment and will reach my 260 week limit toward the end of 2017. Come 2018, I will no longer have an income.  I will rely on my wife who works in a school office who has supported me in so many ways to this point.  She doesn’t deserve to work for another ten years to pay for me.  She has already given every weekend of the past 16 years to help me fulfil my work and keep me sane.  I thank her for that.  My injury is complicated with secondary injury as I suffer from major depression and chronic pain syndrome (which is not assessed in whole person impairment scale) as well as frequent episodes where I am unable to even walk or care for myself when my back-injury flares and I require an ambulance to move me and transport me to hospital for treatment. I have many feelings about my inability to provide financially when the 5-year period I was given to recover by changes to the legislation in 2012 comes at the end of 2017.  I am angry, worried, and anxious and I have put a great deal of thought into what I can do at this time in my life to continue to secure an income.  I have supported myself to survive by using my only skills with assistance from my wife in the entertainment industry as a solo musician but can no longer do this as it is not achievable on my own and I am aware that my health would not permit it.  I have not had ANY training provided by Insurers since my injury.  My current WorkCover Capacity Certificate states ‘recent WorkCover Authority Merits Review have indicated ‘he is not able to return to work either his pre-injury employment or in suitable employment’ and ‘has no current work capacity for any employment indefinitely’.  I have been on these restrictions since 2015 and previously I could work for 16 hours per week with heavy lifting restrictions ‘with wife’s assistance’.  I am relieved that my wife does not have to assist me in the middle of winter in below zero conditions, driving home at 3am on highways with tired drivers passing us.  This has been a heavy burden on me and the last Merit Review states that she should not have been placed in this position and that I am not able to work.  I am unhappy that life has been such a struggle and cannot see the future for me or other injured workers being anything but horrendous.  It is totally unfair that this minority is punished by the government for going to work and being unfortunately injured.  There will be no means of survival for me financially and my health both physically and mentally will deteriorate.  I am totally dependent on my wife’s income after the 5-year cut off.  It is unreasonable to put a time limit on regaining health when it is not an option.  The mortgage, car expenses, phone, power, insurances and general living expenses are in excess of our future income.  Health issues are another concern for both of us.  Our retirement cannot be planned and our grandchildren will not be given treats or gifts as we would like.  I cannot see a restful time for us only financial hardship.

The long battle to survive this ordeal has been a strain on both myself and my family.  I have not been easy to live with and not having any control over decisions about health, employment or just being free to enjoy life is so consuming.  Dealing with Insurers has been a constant battle and at times I have felt like giving up – on life.  There is always a problem with pay not being in the bank at Christmas, Insurers not getting medical certificates when they have been sent, change of case manager and their different attitudes and level of knowledge, having to explain to each of these case managers your story over and over and then reading the management plans, letters that don’t reflect the conversation you actually had with them, management plans that refer to the use of your left shoulder and appointments you must attend when you actually have a back injury and on it goes.  My quality of life has been impacted in many ways – the glass half full approach – with the help of anti-depressants – my happy times are family times now.  My hobbies are now restricted and the effort involved in even taking my grandsons fishing is difficult and the pain is always there to dull the joy.  Life has so many restrictions now.

In conclusion, having an injury with over 21% would mean there is little quality of life and I feel deeply for all of these people.  If you are 15% impaired like myself there is little chance that you could gain employment anywhere once an employer knew the extent of your injury and if you were employed by this person could you actually perform the duties of the employment.  At my age there is little that I can do and I know that employment is not going to be an option even if I was a healthy 61 year old.  If you have remained on workers’ compensation wages to this point with all the pressure that it entails with insurers and the hard road of getting medical support then you must be severely injured and unable to work at least 16 hours a week.   If you have done the right thing and tried to gain employment to date and worked to your medical restrictions, then I think there is a gap from 15% to 21% impairment that needs support. 

When payments cease, I will have five years coverage for medical expenses – I will be unable to afford my medicine after that point as the present cost of it is about $80.00 per month.  I have on average 1 or 2 trips by ambulance to hospital each year and stay for a period of time until I am able to walk again. These costs will be transferred to Medicare.

I am fortunate to still have my family with me and in saying that for my wife to be so supportive. This system punishes me and her because she now has to support me until she can retire at 67 if her health allows.  This is not a good feeling.  The fight is tiring!

I urge support for the many people who are facing this unjust change to the rights of injured workers. Thank you for listening to my story.

The Acting President Rita Mallia thanked Steve for his address.

Rita Mallia

Rita Mallia addressed the meeting telling the story of Gaetano Aquilina, a formwork carpenter with English as his second language. In 2009 he suffered an injury to his knee. In 2011 he suffered a rotator cuff tear. His employer and insurer pressured both Mr Aquilina and his GP to return Mr Aquilina to work despite limited capacity and extreme pain. The GP expressed concerns about the bullying behaviour of the insurer. They threatened to close his file if the insurer did not change his certificate.

They made him return to work, perform duties beyond his capacity and then sacked him, because they could. Because the legislation allows it.

Since then Mr Aquilina has been fighting the system with assistance from his sons. Mr Aquilina will never return to construction. He requires ongoing domestic assistance from his children. Mr Aquilina is in constant pain from his injuries. A few months ago Mr Aquilina was notified that because he was only 12% his weekly benefits would cease on Boxing Day. For a man who has spent the last 6 years fighting a system who cared little for his health and wellbeing this was devastating news. Mr Aquilina cannot understand how he can be permanently injured with permanent restrictions and still in incredible pain only to be pushed aside like he means nothing. I have to agree with Mr Aquilina. 

Icare has acknowledged that this cut off will have a lasting and dangerous emotional impact on injured workers. They acknowledge that there is a chance that injured workers will suffer extraordinary psychological damage as a result of this change in particular. It baffles me that the government can see the pain coming and is bracing for the impact but is not doing anything to stop it from happening. The Unions have been lobbying icare, SIRA and the government to change the boxing day date but they don’t want to listen.

This week the NSW government announced a $4.5 billion budget surplus and we know that the workers comp system has money in the budget and yet 3000 injured workers are going to suffer.  

And that’s only 3000 workers this year. This cut off is ongoing. Every week there will be an injured worker who is cut off simply because they haven’t reached the magic number.  

This money hoarding government has no compassion for the vulnerable members of our society.

The Acting President, Rita Mallia, introduced Emma Maiden, Assistant Secretary Unions NSW.

Emma Maiden

Emma spoke about the 12 Principles of Workers Comp Reform and the 5 priority matters that Unions NSW have identified in the flyer.

Emma asked the MP present to answer the question:  Do you support the 12 Principles of Workers Compensation Reform and will you sponsor or support Private members Bills on the 5 Priority Matters? 

NSW Workers Compensation System

In June 2012, the NSW Liberal Government implemented a series of drastic cuts to the workers compensation system, NSW Labor has committed to repealing these cuts.

Unions NSW WHS & WC Committee has considered what system of workers compensation works best.  We have consulted with our affiliated unions and have developed 12 Guiding Principles for reform.

12 Guiding Principles

1.    Workers compensation should be available on a no-fault basis where an injury “arises out of or in the course of employment”, even where it is the aggravation of an existing injury or disease.

2.    Premiums must recover the costs of the system as well as encourage safe work practices.

 3.    WorkCover must be properly resourced to carry out its functions properly including an increased emphasis on prevention and compliance.

 4.    Meaningful tripartite consultation must be a central part of the system.

 5.    The system of scheme agents and self-insurers should be abolished and all workers compensation functions should be internalised within WorkCover.

 6.    Trade unions must have the power to enforce non-compliance with workers compensation low together with rights of entry, inspection and other investigative powers.

7.    The Workers Compensation Commission should provide quick, easy, effective and legally binding mechanism to resolve disputes about all aspects of the workers compensation system.

8.    Return to work should be elevated as a central tenant of workers compensation by:

8.1 placing an absolute obligation on employers to provide suitable duties;

8.2 preventing termination unless the injury management plan states that the return to work goal is a different job and a different employer; and
8.3 incentivising the employment of injured workers.

 9.    Journey claims and recess claims should be covered by the system.

 10.    Weekly payments should be set at a level equivalent to an injured worker’s pre-injury average weekly earnings irrespective of their fitness for work and should not be subject to any caps or step-downs.

 11.    Costs associated with medical and all related treatment should be covered for workers compensation purposes with no arbitrary caps or limits.

Work Capacity Reviews and Decisions should be removed from the workers compensation legislation.  Consideration of a worker’s functionality is properly addressed as part of their rehabilitation plan.

The Acting President, Rita Mallia invited David Shoebridge MLC, to answer the question. 

David Shoebridge

David acknowledged the personal stories of Steve and John. He stated workers compensation is about restoring dignity once someone is injured, financial security and medical protection for life. The Greens are committed to this principle.

David said one of the reasons he had entered politics was due to the workers comp changes in 2001. He said the 2012 changes impacted people’s entire lives, sense of worth and dignity. He said he feared as many as 6 or 7000 workers would be cut off this year. Their families will be shattered. How can the Government sit on their hands?

David is committed to fixing the system. He said we need to highlight the human reality so people can understand what will happen if we don’t fix it. When the Government says they can’t afford to fix workers comp they are lying. The system is in a robust surplus. They want to fund 110% of future liabilities. They have funding to meet 125% of future liabilities. They are sitting on a $2 billion surplus and refuse to give it to injured workers. They haven’t been exposed enough to the pain from the system.

David committed to work with Unions NSW, the IWSN, unions and injured workers to expose the human cost and to see if we can change minds. The system is designed for injured workers to fail.

The Acting President, Rita Mallia noted unfortunately Parliament was sitting late and a number of MPs were unable to attend. Clayton Barr had sent his apologies for not being in attendance tonight and provided a statement, which she read to the meeting.

Statement from:  Mr Clayton Barr MP, Member for Cessnock, Shadow Minister for Finance, Services and Property.

Unfortunately, Parliament is sitting late on this Thursday night (for the 1st time in 6 years) to get the Budget through all stages. It is currently held up in the Upper House due to negotiations and amendments – obviously inspired by recent Budgets in Canberra.

I thank Unions NSW and the Labor Council for its ongoing advocacy around the issue of Workers Compensation. From Opposition it has been distressing to watch the changes that this Government have made and the damage that it is causing for injured workers.   There is much to do.

In the short term, from Opposition, we have (we believe successfully) used Private Members Bills to hold the Government to account. In 2015 we moved 2 Private members Bills, both of which led to the Government making changes to the Workers Compensation Legislation. It’s not that they willingly adopted our Bill, by voting with us, it was more a matter of them choosing to introduce their own Bill and Regulation.

In 2017 the NSW Labor Opposition will again be moving Private Members Bills to make improvement, essential changes, to the Workers Compensation Legislation.  Of key importance is the need to have the 5 year limit to weekly payments for injured workers with 0%-20% Whole Person Impairment removed from the Legislation.  At the same time we will seek to change the definition of suitable employment, make changes to the Act to place a greater emphasis and appropriate responsibility on the employer to assist in Return to Work, and, to reinstate journey claims.

We are also committed to addressing the issue of a prospective employer asking if a worker has a workers compensation history. As you know, this is a complicated matter that has an effect on many other pieces of Legislation.

I again emphasise my deep appreciation for the ongoing advocacy of your organisation.

I hope that your night goes well.  I again emphasise my deep appreciation for the ongoing advocacy of your organisation.


Clayton Barr MP, Cessnock

The Acting President, Rita Mallia, thanked everyone for their attendance at this special meeting.

The Secretary, Mark Morey, presented a gift to Rowan Kernebone to acknowledge this was his last official duty as Coordinator of the IWSN and to wish him well in his next role. Rowan made some remarks about the importance of continuing to support the work of the IWSN.

A group photo was taken with the Justice for Injured Workers banner and everyone was encouraged to sign up and be part of the next phase of the campaign.



1.   Bus Drivers and Community Assembly - Don’t Sell Our Buses


      Wednesday 28 June at 6:30pm Uniting Church, 264 Pitt St, Sydney


2.   Council Meetings 


     Please note Council Meetings will NOT be held next week due to the ACTU Next Gen17   Conference. 


Council meetings will resume Thursday 6 July.













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