UnionsACT urges Government to take more time to consult with unions on new motor injury compensation laws

UnionsACT has today written to the ACT Government, urging it to take more time to consult on its proposed motor injury accident compensation laws.

The proposed laws represent the largest reform to personal injury compensation law in the ACT, and will substantially reduce rights for injured people, especially workers who are injured on the road while working. The main beneficiaries will be insurance company profits.

The sections of the Bill impacting workers’ rights was developed without consultation with unions, and changes to workers’ injury rights was not considered by the Citizens Jury process.

UnionsACT is especially concerned that the rights of workers injured in a road accident will be substantially reduced under the proposed changes, especially through their ability to access workers compensation or change schemes. Workers be forced to opt into either workers’ compensation or the new scheme after only 13 weeks; currently, a worker injured on the road can change scheme at any time (and one scheme pays back the other to prevent “double dipping”). This could have a negative impact on workers’ recovery, wellbeing and income.

The Bill includes a new concept of “significant occupation injury”, again without consultation with unions. The assessment will be conducted by a medical examiner determined by an insurance company, not the injured person’s treating doctor, and as drafted the Bill significantly restricts compensation for a worker who is injured in a road accident and is unable to return to work.

UnionsACT is also concerned the Bill was developed after years of intense lobbying behind the scenes by the duopoly insurance companies. While the Bill includes some new powers for a Commissioner, the sanction regime is a light touch for such a powerful industry and it will be overseen by ACAT, rather than the Magistrates Court.

The following quotes are attributable to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“Workers are facing substantial reductions in their rights to compensation if they are injured while on the road, and this is being rushed through without consultation with unions.

“While the Government may say the changes are generous, the truth is that injured workers will have fewer rights and fewer options under the proposals.

“There is no need for this haste, and there has been no effort made to explain or justify why workers should have their rights reduced.

“This is a highly complex reform with hundreds of pages of new legislation and even more regulation. By rushing there is significant risks of significant negative consequences for injured workers.”

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