The Guardian May 2, 2001


State-wide strike for compo rights

Last Friday, April 27, Australia hosted the International Day of 
Mourning for workers killed as a result of their work. The protest and 
remembrance to mark climbing fatalities of workplace related deaths around 
the world, including Australia, powerfully reinforces the need for 
increased occupational health and safety measures in workplaces to protect 
workers' health and lives. In NSW it also serves to highlight the Carr 
Government's attempt to wipe out workers' compensation rights.

The Carr Government's Workers' Compensation Legislation Bill 2001 is aimed 
at taking away fundamental rights from injured workers, including the right 
of access to common law to sue negligent employers. It puts restrictive 
rules in place which would make it all but impossible for most of those 
seeking compensation to receive payment.

Under these harsh new rules about 95 percent of injured workers currently 
eligible for compensation would receive no payments.

Workers would no longer receive lump sum payments if they cannot prove they 
have suffered a 10 percent permanent body impairment, 25 percent for common 
law claims.

Further, before any claim can go to court a new Claims Assessment Service 
would have the power to make legally binding decisions on such matters as 
the degree of a worker's permanent bodily impairment. Workers will have no 
right to appeal except in the most extreme cases.

Frank McGrath, the former chief judge of the Compensation Court, said last 
week that the Carr Government was looking for the quickest way to get rid 
of injured workers. "Under the proposed system, you should no longer call 
it the Workers' Compensation Act  it should be a departmental economies 
act."

This Thursday, as part of the union campaign against the proposed 
legislation the centre of Sydney will be blockaded with trucks at peak 
hour. Transport Workers' Union members will block off the city centre with 
200 vehicles  semi-trailers, courier vans and cement trucks.

The action is in preparation for a planned state-wide strike on May 29, the 
day Parliament resumes its sittings and when debate on the legislation 
begins. The Government delivers its budget that same day.

International Day

The International Day of Mourning began in Canada in 1986, and was adopted 
internationally in 1996. It is marked by ceremonies on or around April 28 
each year in countries throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, 
Asia and Australia.

This year the focus of the Day of Mourning is cancer of all kinds, 
primarily those caused by asbestos. Unions around Australia are pushing the 
Howard Government to ban all asbestos imports by 2003.

Every year around the world ...

* Over 1.2 million workers die because of their work.

* Approximately 335,000 deaths result from workplace accidents, with 12,000 
of these fatalities being children.

* Another 325,000 people die from occupational diseases, most of which 
result from exposure to hazardous substances.

Asbestos is the single largest killer, claiming about 100,000 lives each 
year.

* At least 250 million are injured in workplace accidents and 160 million 
more contract occupational diseases.

* Many workers suffer oppression and violence arising out of their 
employment, being the victims of murder, torture, and also discrimination 
because of their union membership.

Every year in Australia ...

* Over 440 workers are killed in traumatic work related accidents  more 
than eight per week.

* Work related diseases such as cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma, 
occupational asthma and others cause an additional 2,300 deaths.

* This equates overall to around 50 deaths per week  the corresponding 
figure for road deaths is around 30 per week.

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