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.