Cruel reality of life on workers compensation

Central West workers speak out

The State's trade union movement held a rally in Orange on 2 November 2016 about workers compensation, ahead of parliamentary hearings into the human toll of cuts to the rights of sick and injured workers.

 The protest heard from local workers who have been injured at work and must now contend with the harsh nature of Mike Baird’s cuts to workers compensation.

Since the scheme was slashed in 2012, there has been no improvement in returning injured workers to employment, according to separate studies by both Macquarie University and a Unions NSW inquiry.

At the same time, income benefits have been reduced or cut off to four out of every ten sick and injured workers. At least 26,500 injured workers had their medical cover cut off between June 2012 and 31 December 2013, with tens of thousands more since then.

While employers enjoyed a $447 million windfall in reduced premiums over the three years to July 2015, the cost has been worn by sick and injured workers. A Unions NSW survey of injured workers in 2014 and 2015 shows the longer someone is on workers compensation, the more likely they are to have suicidal thoughts. For those in the system the longest, 25% had suicidal thoughts.

“Mike Baird’s cuts to workers compensation have hit society’s most vulnerable the hardest,” said Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW.

“This Government has reached into the pocket of sick and injured workers to give an almost half billion dollar benefit to employers and insurers. It’s simply unjust.

“We hear regular accounts of people at their wit's end being harassed by insurers and suffering deep stigma and harassment from their employer. The harshness of the current workers compensation systems is crushing the spirit of those it is supposed to support, driving them to mental illness and self harm.

“The Government’s stated aim of returning sick and injured workers to employment has been an abject failure. The only people who have prospered under this system are the wealthy and powerful.

“Mike Baird ought to stop boasting about the workers comp surplus that has been built on the back of sick and injured workers and instead restore benefits to them. The test of any civilised society is how it treats those most vulnerable.”

Key facts:

  • Four in ten sick and injured workers have had their income support reduced or cut off since 2012.
  • Employers have enjoyed a $447 million cut in premiums since workers compensation was slashed in 2012.
  • The NSW workers compensation scheme operates with a $4 billion surplus, enough to comfortably restore benefits to those who have had them slashed.
  • The business model operated by insurers has a 19% profit margin.
  • Approximately one quarter of those who have been in the workers compensation system the longest report having suicidal thoughts.
  • Of the 100 injured workers who told their story to the Unions NSW Return to Work Inquiry, 44 reported suffering depression and 7 mentioned suicidal thoughts.
  • Separate studies by Macquarie University and Unions NSW have found virtually no improvement in returning sick and injured workers to employment, the stated aim of the 2012 changes.

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