Workers call for strike for WorkCover

July 11, 2001

BY JENNY LONG

SYDNEY — Twenty activists gathered on July 5 under the banner of Trade Unionists to Defend Workers' Compensation to call on the NSW Labor Council and affiliated unions to relaunch industrial action to defeat the state government's new workers compensation law.

The law, passed on June 29, will severely reduce workers' entitlements to compensation for injuries, in the name of reducing the predicted deficit in the state's WorkCover scheme.

Despite the concessions Labor Council secretary John Robertson claims to have forced out of the government, the new law penalises workers for this predicted deficit, rather than forcing employers to improve safety, reduce accidents or pay the proper premiums.

According to lawyer Eric Peterson, who addressed the group, this law continues a long tradition of cutting back on workers' compensation rights. In 1987 the then Labor government stopped workers from suing negligent employers.

The group also heard from delegates from the Nurses Federation and the university staff union, before resolving to continue collecting signatures on a petition to be presented to next week's Labor Council meeting.

The petition demands that the unions:

lcall mass delegates meetings in all major urban centres to consider the next step of the campaign;

lrestore the revenue collection bans on rail and buses;

lcall a 24-hour statewide strike immediately; and

lexpel those members of parliament who are union members and crossed the Labor Council blockade on June 19.

It also demands that:

lthe government force employers to pay proper workers' comp premiums, which the government admits will be worth over $100m per year;

la government insurance fund for workers' compensation be re-established and the private insurance market be excluded from this field;

lthe full inspectorate of WorkCover be restored to enforce workplace safety laws; and

land that negligent employers be prosecuted under criminal law.

To obtain a copies of the petition or to find out more, phone 0438 641 587.

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