It is our last day for 2016 but what have I learnt over the past year?
This was inspired by a piece I wrote on my first anniversary back in July 2015 10 things I learnt
The Workers Compensation System is getting harder not easier.
A year ago I wrote that the problems with workers comp was a no brainer lesson, but since then I have spoken to more and more people working in all areas of the system, as well as people interstate and overseas. From the rights to access doctors being denied to people in America to the complicated systems in place in Victoria or the betrayal of the South Australian Labor government earlier this year the only time in history it was this tough was pre 1948. We are going to a dark place in this country with injury and disability, a place which will take us a generation or two to overcome even if the political and moral will was there to do it. We are winning some fights but the devil has taken the pearly gates already.
Being injured at work is harder still.
The attitude of employers appears to be getting worse with the big companies showing their teeth against anyone with an acquired or perceived disability- that includes the majority of injured workers. Sackings are up this year by a significant amount if our helpline is any guide, as HR departments around NSW treat the 6-month “protection” as a waiting lounge rather than an opportunity and disability policies the same as an advertisement for half price bananas. With some rehab providers moving into the spying business (procare) the whole industry seems to be arming itself against injured workers.
Insurers are incompetent
Yes, I know people who are reading this have probably already come to that conclusion but its worth noting again as I didn't back in mid 2015. When I use it now I’m not talking about the case managers though (that should surprise the rusted supporters). I’m talking about their management and the executive.
We talk about the problems we face as being systemic, there is not greater example of this than the planned incompetence of the insurance companies.
Firstly, they are given a piece of legislation that has to be one of the worst conceived legislative policy changes ever handed down in an Australian Parliament. It is honestly bad from an academic viewpoint as well as a practical one. Secondly the makers of this piece of unworkable crap write out contracts to financial companies to administer it without clear, positive and productive goals to meet this means the insurance companies use their fall back goals imbedded in their financial company status. Thirdly Insurers hire executives with no understanding of the underlying issues of health or employment or disability to manage these teams, then they hire people who again have no experience in health, employment or disability. Finally they make the environment so toxic that the workers they do hire only last a few months. It truely isn't your case managers fault, least their part in the fault is only a small percentage and a reaction to the incompetence of their managers and executives.
Injured workers are stronger together.
Another lesson that I had in my first year but worth repeating as my conviction about the strength of people going through adversity has only increased in the past year. From speaking to crowds at a moments notice, to planning and preparing submissions to organising members networks, to just getting through each and every day trying hard to recover from their injury it always amazes me and surprises me how strong our members are. It’s an inspiration that will last me my lifetime, driving me on to bigger and better things.
There is more help out there than I have time to organise.
Throughout this year I have come across a large number of people willing to help who I have had to put on hold just because I don’t have the hours in the day or days in the week to manage. That is as much an admission of failure on my behalf as an inspiration to drive me on. The most important aspect about that is I know and our volunteers know we are not alone in this fight.
We have enemies.
“Keep on annoying those people who you should be annoying, enemies make themselves.” That’s a quote from an old union boss of mine after he received the first complaint from an employer about my involvement with an industrial issue.
This year we have had to deal with the Australian Insurance Council tying to insist that injured workers should not be considered stakeholders in discussions about workers compensation, a regulator and government who treated us like an annoyance rather than an equal partner, insurance employees dissing us on our own website, private investigators using contact with us as proof of non-compliance and a troll on our facebook page from another country. Enemies to the IWSN exist, I’ve learnt who they are and I am fine that they count themselves as enemies. Whether someone likes me personally or not doesn’t concern me (Its not possible for me to be liked by everyone) whether someone is an enemy of the cause doesn’t worry me either, what that suggest is that person is unable to see past their own interests or understand the lives of others- they aren’t worth my efforts but we wont and don't work to make enemies, my old boss was correct, enemies make themselves.
I’m not as cleaver as I thought I was.
No, wait for it, yes its an negative against me but it comes from a good place. I’m a professional. That means I have an attitude and outlook that has to be slightly objective when I can be. More importantly, I’ve never had a workers comp claim, what I’ve learnt, what I talk about is based solely on the experiences told to me by our members and injured workers. That’s a good thing in my opinion, but it does mean I have to set aside my own cleverness and rely on our members, and check in with our members on any suggestions I might put forward. There are a few ideas I’ve tossed out because a member has looked at me in that certain way and told me how hard my idea would make their lives if it was reality. It is a humbling experience for someone like me. It is also very exciting, especially if during the discussion the member/members and I come up with a new idea that would work. Sharing those gives me Goosebumps.
Writing stories at 4 am in the morning isn’t great for spelling or grammar.
A shout out to the three or four people who read these articles every day and are willing to point out the mistakes in spelling and grammar, I’ve learn to get the articles written during the working day rather than in the morning , and I do appreciate the help.
It’s been a promise of mine since I started to learn as much as I can about the federal workers compensation system so we can start assisting people under that system. I think we are there now. Comcare is just as complicated as the NSW system and has it’s good and bad points (see the first lesson learnt). We have a comcare handbook which is currently under review before it’s release in January next year and after that we will be offering assistance throughout Australia for all injured workers under comcare. It is definably the newest lesson learnt.
I’ve still got the fire and the energy to get this done, and I know others have it too.
We have a saying at the IWSN "Injured Workers Walk Together." next year is going to be tough for many injured workers facing the second Baird trap and to everyone else currently recovering and/or adapting with a workers comp claim but we will keep walking through this together and we will have many more things to celebrate this time in 2017. I learnt that through 2014, 2015 and 2016. I know its true.