Workcover protests begin
By Di Quin
MELBOURNE — About 1000 building workers braved Melbourne's wintry conditions on July 7 to protest against the Kennett government's Workcover Act.
The law, which came into effect in December, severely restricts access to any form of compensation for work-related injuries. Only totally incapacitated workers or workers who are seriously injured will receive anything like adequate compensation for lost wages as a result of being injured in the workplace. If an injury extends beyond 104 weeks, many people will be forced to rely on social security payments to receive "compensation".
The rally and march, initiated by Trades Hall, included speakers from the Electrical Trades Union and the Builders Workers Industrial Union whose messages were clear: if the government, insurance companies and bosses will not listen to this initial political campaign, building workers will move quickly to a united, aggressive industrial campaign. Building workers have led the struggles around workplace injury and safety in the past, they said, and this campaign will be no exception.
Workers marched to protest outside insurance companies destined to make enormous profits under the Workcover Act. A delegation of union representatives, including Trades Hall organiser Brian Boyd, entered the offices of FAI Insurance to express the concerns of workers. Boyd later reported back that if any worker had a legitimate complaint the doors of the company directors were open! However, judging by the rally's response to this comment, not many were convinced.
Trades Hall has organised a month of stop-works and rallies throughout Victorian unions in order to protest against the Work Cover Act.