Dec 24

Blind, pregnant, injured women told their jobs may go

 

A small government agency has told three women – one blind, one pregnant and one who was injured at work – they are likely to lose their jobs.

Source: The Canberra Times – Blind, pregnant, injured women told their jobs may go

The union that represents the trio is now investigating whether their employer, the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, discriminated against them. It said the news, delivered just before Christmas, was ”terrible timing”.

However, the legal office said its decisions were in no way influenced by the staff’s disability, pregnancy or history of injury.

The agency, which drafts and advises on legislation, wanted to shed six jobs by undertaking a ”spill and fill” – a process in which employees are asked to reapply for their jobs – among 13 of its drafters.

 

One decided to take a redundancy package, two refused to take part in the process, and the office told the other three women late last week they were ”potentially excess”.

One of them, Amanda Heal, 43, is blind. She is also the office’s Community and Public Sector Union delegate. She said the second drafter was due to give birth in February, while the third drafter’s performance was impaired by a workplace injury.

Of her pregnant colleague, Ms Heal said: ”How is she supposed to apply for jobs when she’s giving birth, then on maternity leave?”She said she was deeply disappointed as she loved her job. ”I always wanted to be a legislative drafter. I just feel so sad.”

She did not accuse her employer of discrimination but was seeking advice from the union. ”It seems a strange coincidence that it was the three of us,” she said.The agency’s head, first parliamentary counsel Peter Quiggin, defended the fairness of the decisions.”[The office] followed a rigorous and transparent process, which involved written applications, written referee reports (which were supplied to applicants) and interviews for all applicants,” he said in a statement.

”The selection committee was made up of highly experienced staff with a mix of experience in instrument drafting and bill [drafting], with a mix of male and female members.”

Most federal government workplaces are trying to shed staff as a result of budget cuts.

The Community and Public Sector Union said perceptions of discrimination during redundancies elsewhere in the public service had been thankfully rare so far. Deputy president Alistair Waters said: ”We are concerned and hope this is a one-off incident and not the beginning of a trend across the public service as this government’s austerity drive bites.

”However, we are investigating the circumstances to see if there are any grounds for discrimination. To have three women – two of whom have disabilities and one of whom is pregnant – all lose their jobs in one day seems more than a coincidence.

”At the very least, this is terrible timing coming, as it does, just before Christmas and this is not the way to treat your workforce.

”We expect more from the public service, which should be showing leadership when it comes to diversity and equality in the workplace.”

Read Here: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/blind-pregnant-injured-women-told-their-jobs-may-go-20131223-2zuxs.html

 

 

Dec 23

Disability pension crackdown draws criticism from welfare advocates

Disability and welfare advocates have questioned the Abbott government’s plans to tighten up the disability support pension, arguing the Coalition is pulling the ”wrong levers” to get more people off the pension and into jobs.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald – Disability pension crackdown draws criticism from welfare advocates

On Sunday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the government is looking to cut DSP costs. The pension provides support to about 822,000 people a year at a cost of $15 billion.

”Right now we’re looking right across government for opportunities to improve efficiencies, to reduce costs in a sensible fashion – this is one of the fast-growing areas of government expenditure,” he told Sky News.

Concerned about a 22 per cent rise over the past decade in those paid the DSP, the Coalition wants to more of its recipients moved into the workforce.

 

”Our view is, anyone who can work, should work,” Senator Cormann said.

It is understood the Coalition is considering more regular reviews of DSP recipients under 40 and of temporary payments to people who do not have permanent disabilities.

A spokeswoman for Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews said the government was consulting stakeholders and was keen to ”get a move on this” in the new year.

People with Disability Australia president Craig Wallace, who has not been consulted, agreed it was important to get people with disabilities into paid work but said more sustainable measures, focused on workplace cultures, job creation and personal support, were needed. ”We’re pressing the wrong levers on this problem,” he said.

Australian Council of Social Service chief Cassandra Goldie said she was concerned the review was ”more about budget savings” than support for people with disabilities.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/disability-pension-crackdown-draws-criticism-from-welfare-advocates-20131222-2zt3j.html#ixzz2oIewywII

Dec 23

Workers compensation medical expenses

Nurses

On 16 December the NSW Government put out a new Regulation regarding workers compensation medical expenses.

Source: NSW Nurses & Midwives Association – Workers compensation medical expenses

Before the Regulation, all injured workers who were not receiving weekly payments on 1 January 2013 would be cut off medical payments from 1 January 2014.

The Regulation means those of you who were due to be cut off from medical expenses can continue to get certain medical expenses covered if you get pre-approval from your insurer before 1 January 2014. (Please find below the amendment with explanatory note as well as what treatments would be covered).

If you’ve had an injury and still require medical treatment but have not been in receipt of weekly compensation payments, then this applies to you should you require ongoing medical treatments.

If you had pre-approval for treatment but were unable to organise that treatment before 1 January 2014, that pre-approval should now apply.

However, if you’ve already settled your case then this does not apply to you.

Given the time of year we understand this pre-approval will be very difficult for most of you to organise.

However if you’ve been injured and are impacted by this change we strongly encourage you to organise pre-approval of any upcoming medical costs as a matter of urgency.

The regulation can be read here: Workers Compensation Amendment (Medical Expenses) Regulation 2013

Read Here: http://www.nswnma.asn.au/workers-compensation-medical-expenses/

Dec 23

Injured police get $133,000 while insurer pockets $100 million – policy failure by O’Farrell government

Injured police have received only a tiny fraction of an annual $100 million that the O’Farrell government has wasted on a privatised death and disability insurance scheme they established in 2011.  See the report in the SMH here.

Source: David Shoebridge MLC – Injured police get $133,000 while insurer pockets $100 million

The analysis of the failed police insurance scheme comes from figures released by the NSW auditor generalIn the 2012/2013 financial year the NSW government paid the insurer TAL $99.9 million for insurance for injured police, but the insurer paid out only a total of $133,471 in actual claims.

The average payment to injured police fell from approximately $480,000 under the old scheme to just $19,067 under the new scheme.

Greens MP and Police Spokesperson, David Shoebridge said:

“This is a comprehensive policy failure by the O’Farrell government and it is injured police who are paying the highest cost.

“This $100 million insurance premium should have gone to assist injured police, instead 99.8% of the payments has lined the pockets of just one insurer.

“The government’s ideological drive to privatise the police death and disability scheme at any cost has seen taxpayers and police lose out while the insurance industry is once again laughing all the way to the bank.

“The Police Minister must be held accountable for a scheme that has seen $100 million in taxpayer funds essential flushed down the toilet.

“Instead of putting such a vast amount of money into a failed insurance policy the government should have put that money aside for genuine assistance to injured police.

“Instead the government appears to have learned nothing from the 2012/13 disaster and has bungled ahead this year and purchased exactly the same failed policy for the same inflated price.

“Injured police have every right to feel betrayed by this government that on one hand keeps talking up their role, but with the other cuts their benefits and wastes the scarce funds put aside to protect them.

“Injured police, just like all other injured workers in NSW, have become politically expendable for this government who’s only focus is on limiting overall payments, regardless of the final impact on those who need assistance,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Read Here: http://davidshoebridge.org.au/2013/12/23/injured-police-get-133000-while-insurer-pockets-100-million-policy-failure-by-ofarrell-government/

 

Dec 23

Tim Wilson’s appointment as Human Rights Commissioner could see cuts to a program on school bullying

Tim Wilson’s appointment as Human Rights Commissioner could see cuts to a program on school bullying as the Australian Human Rights Commission accommodates his six-figure salary without any extra funding from the government.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald – Tim Wilson’s appointment as Human Rights Commissioner 

The incoming Human Rights Commissioner, who is due to take up his position in February, will be paid about $320,000 – a sum equal to that of his fellow commissioners, though less than president Gillian Triggs.

On Sunday, Professor Triggs said Mr Wilson’s salary would have to come out of the commission’s current annual budget of about $25 million. ”This really does squeeze the commission,” she said.

 

Professor Triggs said that she and the other commissioners would meet in January to decide where cuts would come from to make room for Mr Wilson’s salary, but suggested that an anti-bullying program and a program on education for older Australians might be in the firing line.

She said that an inquiry into asylum seeker children who are held in detention would still go ahead.

The commission had not anticipated it would have to pay Mr Wilson’s salary as new appointees usually come with extra federal government funding, a spokesman said.

Mr Wilson was appointed to the commission last week by Attorney-General George Brandis, in a move that shocked the political establishment, as Mr Wilson had been a director at the Institute of Public Affairs, which has called for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission.

Senator Brandis said he wanted to ”restore balance” to the commission.

Along with Mr Wilson’s appointment, the Coalition has also flagged it wants to see further reforms to the commission in the new year.

On Sunday a spokesman for Senator Brandis would not be drawn on what specific reforms were being considered. But the spokesman confirmed the new government was not considering abolishing the commission altogether.

This came after Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested the entire commission could be on the chopping block. ”Over the medium to long-term, let’s just watch this space and see what happens,” he told Sky News when asked why the government should not abolish the whole organisation.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus called Senator Brandis to “come clean” about the cuts he expected the commission to make to pay for Mr Wilson’s appointment.

“Mr Wilson is already on the record calling for the Human Rights Commission to be abolished – it looks like he may already get his way, with the commission forced to cut programs to pay for his salary,” Mr Dreyfus said.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tim-wilsons-appointment-as-human-rights-commissioner-could-see-cuts-to-a-program-on-school-bullying-20131222-2zt17.html#ixzz2oGkZZqFN

Dec 22

Big retailers warned in NSW truck clampdown

Coles and Woolworths are among leading companies warned by the NSW government to make sure truck drivers are not risking lives to meet tight delivery deadlines.

Source: The Sun Herald –  Big retailers warned in NSW truck clampdown

Government officials are acting after unsafe industry practices were revealed in a series of high-profile trucking disasters, including one that killed two people when a petrol tanker rolled over and burst into flames in Mona Vale in October.

Before thousands of NSW drivers take to the roads for the Christmas holidays, the state government also released grim statistics about a sweep last month of more than 6000 trucks registered in Victoria.

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The operation found more than 500 brake faults and more than 200 steering and suspension faults; defect notices were issued at a rate of 2½ times more than for trucks registered in NSW.

 

In ramping up a campaign to target speeding and unsafe trucks, government officials have spread their net beyond transport firms to focus on their big customers.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the government was increasingly prepared to warn and prosecute directors of companies that set deadlines that force drivers to break the law. “We’ve talked to everyone,” he said.

Asked if this included Coles and Woolworths, the country’s biggest retailers, Roads and Maritime Services director of customer and compliance Peter Wells said: “It is more than just the big two. There are other supermarkets, beverage companies, that sort of thing.”

Paul Endicott, the general manager of compliance operations for RMS, said: “A number of very large corporations and their directors have been served with improvement notices that demand they improve their compliant behaviour. By serving or notifying directors, it clearly puts them on notice they are personally responsible.

“I haven’t issued improvement notices with the big supermarkets, no, but we’ve had discussions, very co-operative discussions, with them.”

Senior officials from NSW Police and RMS also revealed widespread differences in the quality of heavy vehicles registered in different states. An operation last month showed trucks registered in Victoria were 2½ times more likely to have serious faults on them than trucks registered in NSW.

NSW drivers are exposed to risks because Victoria is home to some of the country’s biggest trucking firms, and the vehicles regularly drive through this state.

The RMS and police operation last month, “Common Health”, examined 6441 Victorian-registered trucks and issued defect notices on 1170 of them. The notices included 556 brake faults and 248 steering and/or suspension faults.

NSW officials say there has been a 79 per cent drop in the number of speeding trucks since the clampdown started last year.

Systemic problems with the country’s trucking fleet have emerged after a series of fatal accidents in the past two years.

After truck driver Vincent George from Lennons Transport crashed into a car on the Hume Highway in January 2012, killing three, authorities started to investigate the widespread tampering of “speed limiters” that should prevent trucks travelling at more than 100km/h.

Several firms have since been prosecuted for tampering with their limiters, including Victoria’s Logistics 1, which was fined $260,000, Victorian outfit Damorange, forced to pay $100,000, and NSW firm Preston’s Leeton ($100,000).

October’s double fatality in Mona Vale, when a Cootes petrol tanker ran out of control down a hill, highlighted the discrepancies in the compliance of trucking companies in different states. NSW authorities have since threatened to ground the entire Cootes fleet, which is the biggest fuel distributor in the country and has its headquarters in Victoria.

Mr Gay has also warned the directors of Cootes they could be liable for prosecution under chain-of-responsibility legislation.

A spokesman for Coles said the supermarket chain did not employ its own transport drivers but worked with large and reputable firms like Linfox and Toll that had the best safety records in the industry.

‘‘We take our responsibilities very seriously which is why we work with the best suppliers and make safety an integral part of our relationship with regular audits and monitoring to ensure compliance,’’ the Coles spokesman said.

‘‘As you would expect given our focus on safety we talk to the authorities regularly about the industry and how we can maintain our safety record. The NSW RMS confirmed that no enforcement notices were issued to Coles during their recent campaign despite more than a thousand notices being issued for vehicle faults. We are never complacent but this shows that our suppliers are as focused on safety as we are,’’ he said.

A spokeswoman for Woolworths underlined the retailer’s good safety record and noted that no compliance notices had been issued to the company.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/big-retailers-warned-in-nsw-truck-clampdown-20131221-2zrwu.html#ixzz2oB4vTM6q

Dec 21

Important Announcement About Medical Expenses

WIRO

The Workers Compensation Amendment (Medical Expenses) Regulation 2013 has today been gazetted.

Source: WIRO Wire – 2013/December -Medical Expenses

The regulation allows for payment of compensation for certain specified medical treatments, for which no compensation would be otherwise payable, after the cut-off date of 1 January 2014 only if they were approved by the insurer before that date.

To be eligible the worker had to be in receipt of compensation before the commencement of s59A of the 1987 Act (1 October 2012).

A copy of the regulation can be found here. http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/maintop/epub

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Please contact:

Kim Garling
WorkCover Independent Review Officer
(02) 8258 7109
kim.garling@wiro.nsw.gov.au

Issued 20 December, 2013

Dec 20

Former cops say surveillance from insurer MetLife is compounding their PTSD

7.30

Former police officers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) say excessive surveillance by an insurance company is making their trauma worse.

Source: The 7.30 Report ABC – Former cops say surveillance from insurer MetLife is compounding their PTSD

For months on end, former police sergeant Peter Klein has been subjected to endless hours of video surveillance by insurance company MetLife, which is assessing his claim for PTSD.

“It’s massively intimidating,” he says.

“They’ve been up my driveway. They’ve sat out there. There’s footage of me at my letterbox. It’s very ominous-looking. To have surveillance logs or surveillance video induces a massive amount of guilt and trepidation in me.”

Mr Klein’s policing career started like a boy’s own adventure. Commencing with Tasmania Police in 1994, he transferred to New South Wales in 1998.

His favourite job was working in the force’s air wing division, where he conducted dramatic rescues hanging from a helicopter winch.

But all that has finished. These days, he rarely leaves the house for anything bar doctor’s appointments. Each day he swallows a cocktail of psychiatric medication.

During his time on the job, his mental health became eroded by daily exposure to death and tragedy, but it is what has happened since that has compounded his pain.

To escape the constant scrutiny of surveillance, he made his home a fortress, hanging blankets at some windows and taping others up with tin foil.

The irony is not lost on him that as a police officer he used to watch criminals do the very same thing.

“It made me feel perhaps I’m losing my mind; you know, I’m sticking tin-foil up in my own home trying to stop people I don’t even know looking through my window,” he said.

Cop shattered by exposure to human tragedy at suicide hotspot

Mr Klein spent many grisly hours at The Gap, a dramatic cliff face off Sydney’s Watson’s Bay.

“A lot of your job predominantly was picking up people’s shattered remains that had committed suicide off The Gap,” he said.

“I’ve had to chase crows that’ve picked up a bit of skull and ear from the shattered remains of a suicide victim.

“[I’d] wonder whether or not I’d get in more trouble for trying to get the ear back for the Coroner by discharging my firearm out towards the crow, out towards the headland.

“I just got to a point where enough human tragedy was enough for me.”

Mr Klein’s psychiatrist has recommended he go to the cliff as part of his recovery, but his return was enormously difficult and he could not stay long.

Insurer’s surveillance accused of hampering recovery

For the 18 months since he put in his insurance claim, Mr Klein has been paid under $400 a week by the insurance company.

“Forty-one years of age, having your friends and family pay for simple things like food after you’ve worked two or three jobs, never took a day off that you didn’t really need, did everything to build your life,” he said.

“In the last two years I’ve lost my job, my career, my marriage.”

But his attempt at recovery have been stymied by surveillance and delay by MetLife, the police force’s former insurer.

Mr Klein says MetLife “simply wants him to give up”.

“Why am I still being watched? Why is this still going on? Because to me, surveillance means you’re up to no good.”

Another former cop haunted by visions of the dead

Former senior constable Andy Peverill knows all about surveillance too: for six months this year, he has been endlessly watched outside his Parkes property by video surveillance operatives.

Mr Peverill’s wife, Michelle, showed 7.30 one of the nine DVDs of surveillance they have obtained from MetLife.

Investigators film the couple every time they leave the house.

“He has to come with me; he can’t be left on his own,” said Ms Peverill.

“The last time I left him on his own, he cut half of his hair off because he got extremely anxious. And then another time I left him on his own, he started a grassfire without supervision.”

Mr Peverill worked for 10 years at the Parkes police station on general duties.

“When I signed up, I never signed up to get PTSD. I signed up to make a difference. To do a good job,” he said.

“The simplest way to tell people is just tell them I see dead people. The people I see… they were living. But they won’t go away. They just keep coming back.

“They’re back now.”

Mr Peverill’s duties included having to count limbs after traffic accidents, trying and failing to rescue teenagers from a burning car, and giving CPR to a friend’s brother who had hanged himself and who then died in his arms.

One day, he simply could not go to work any more.

“And on that last morning I think he just stepped out of his brain,” Ms Peverill said.

“Something triggered him with his uniform and he just lost the plot and I said ‘What’s the matter?’ and he just said ‘I’m not doing it any more. Don’t make me do it’.

Mr Peverill’s desperation reached a limit one day when his wife found him in the shed.

“And I said ‘Well what are you doing?’ because he was just standing there aimlessly and he said ‘I was just thinking whether or not I would hang myself or I’d connect a hosepipe up to the car’,” Ms Peverill said.

Minute’s silence for those who’ve taken their lives

MetLife lost the contract for NSW Police death and disability insurance last year.

The officers believe the reason claims are being dragged out is because MetLife has lost the income stream but still carries the obligation to pay injured police.

Mr Peverill and Mr Klein are just two of a group of former police who call themselves the Forgotten 300.

 

They say their claims have been delayed by successive insurers of the NSW Force.

This week, the officers invited 7.30 to film a minute’s silence for colleagues who have taken their lives.

New South Wales Greens MP David Shoebridge represented many injured police in his former life as a barrister.

“Even the most legitimate claims, they will take on appeal to the Court of Appeal, on appeal to the High Court to avoid making a fair payment to injured police.

“And that fighting of the claims further aggravates an often awkward and difficult psychological injury in the first place. They’re injured on the job and then they’re injured again through the claims process.”

Psychiatrist says surveillance is “grossly unfair”

Mr Klein’s psychiatrist, Dr Hugh Morgan, says the surveillance is “dehumanising” and “humiliating”.

“It’s a really horrible process and I think it’s grossly, grossly unfair,” he said.

“I can understand that an insurance company would want to make sure that a claim was valid but I think that the surveillance that has been occurring with my patient has just been relentless.

“And it has gone on and on and on and I can only see that this is like harassment.

“And of course what this has done has made Peter completely kind of overwhelmed, fearful, frightened about getting out and doing the things that would actually help in his recovery.”

Despite numerous approaches by 7.30, neither the Police Commissioner nor MetLife would talk to the ABC.

In a statement, police said: “NSW Police is aware of the delays in MetLife’s determination… and the methods used in assessing those claims.

“The force is disappointed with the delays… and is concerned at the impact on [former officers’] ongoing treatment and recovery. The force has voiced its concerns about the delays.”

MetLife says it has introduced a number of new initiatives, such as putting on more staff in effort to speed up what it calls incredibly complex claims. But it defends its use of surveillance as “industry standard”.

Read Here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-19/shattered-cops-suffering-ptsd-say-insurer-making-trauma-worse/5168114

❏ Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14.

Dec 20

NSW govt to appeal IRC super decision

mike-baird-200x0

The NSW government will appeal the Industrial Relations Commission’s finding that public sector workers should get super on top of wage increases.

Source: SKY News –NSW govt to appeal IRC super decision

Treasurer Mike Baird says the commission today upheld a union application for workers to be paid super in addition to any salary raise, rather than be included in the 2.5 per cent cap set by the government.

Mr Baird says the decision failed to take into account the state of NSW’s finances.

He says if super increases are not absorbed into the government’s existing wages policy, expenditure could rise by 860 million dollars over the forward estimates.

Unions NSW Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Morey said the IRC simply upheld the government’s own legislation on wages, which capped increases at 2.5 per cent.

Had the government been successful, he said public sector workers would have seen wage increases of 2.27 per cent.

‘There has been significant cuts to public sector employment and jobs over the last two-and-a-half years,’ he told AAP.

‘Workers are already taking on more work but are getting paid less.’

Mr Morey said the government had run a ‘capacity to pay’ argument at the IRC, but this had not been successful.

‘We will certainly have a look at what they are seeking to appeal the decision on,’ he said, vowing unions would continue to fight.

Read Here:http://www.skynews.com.au/local/article.aspx?id=935011

Dec 19

Spare a thought for the injured workers about to lose their right to ongoing medical assistance: Courtesy of the O’Farrell Government

Medicals

The June 2012 NSW Workers Compensation reforms are about to take yet another cruel twist for injured workers who were not in receipt of weekly payments on the 31st December 2012.  They will lose their right to claim for any further medical and treatment related expenses effective 31st December 2013.
 
The IWSN has been contacted by a number of distressed injured workers and their families who until recently thought they previously had what was a binding legal agreement regarding ongoing medical expenses.  They have discovered that this is no longer the case, courtesy of the O’Farrell Government’s June 2012 NSW Workers Compensation reforms.

Many injured workers may have only been able to re-enter the workforce through the insurer’s coverage of both medical and treatment related services and expenses. They now become further disadvantaged by not being able to meet the extra financial burden associated with keeping themselves both physically and mentally well enough to remain employed.

The most concerning aspect of the latest part of the June reforms is for the thousands of individuals who may have become both physically and mentally dependent upon various forms of medication. They will no longer have access to the medication they are reliant on – which will only inflict further hardship on the injured worker as well as their families.

There will also be a flow on effect to an already overstretched public health system – while the private insurers are given another free ride at the taxpayers’ expense.

The Minister for Finance and Services Mr Andrew Constance needs to seriously consider what the real costs have been as a direct result of the June 2012 NSW workers compensation reforms.

Contact Adam Grumley – IWSN Coordinator Sydney Region – 02 9749 7566
Email: adam.grumley@injuredworkerssupport.org.au
Website: www.injuredworkerssupport.org.au

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