SafetyAtWorkBlog has learnt that the national harmonisation process for workers’ compensation has formally begun with one of the first meetings being scheduled in Melbourne at the end of March 2010 and organised by Safe Work Australia. The two-day meeting is invitation only and invitations have been sent to relevant stakeholders – insurers, rehabilitation, providers, unions…… The meeting is almost an introduction to the reform process but could provide a clear indication of the tensions and challenges for this program in the future.
Workers compensation issues in South Australia have been receiving considerable coverage in SafetyAtWorkBlog over the last few weeks. The bigger picture in the complaints that the Australian Government has committed to a program of national harmonisation of workers’ compensation schemes, currently administered separate by each State. This process is a bigger challenge than harmonising workplace safety laws and may be bigger than the reintroduction of a more worker-friendly industrial relations system.
The ABC News bulletin (video available) in Melbourne on 17 March 2010 ran a lead story about doctors’ reluctance to treat injured workers and people injured in traffic incidents because of the onerous paperwork. Doctors, surgeons and, reportedly, neurosurgeons are reluctant to operate on cases funded through compensation. Some doctors are now boycotting the compensation system.
The neurosurgeon mention is particularly ironic given that only several days ago SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on the positive role of workers’ compensation in the recovery of workers with traumatic brain injuries.
Harmony in the workers’ compensation sector will prove to be one of the most elusive aspirational targets of this Australian Government, particularly with the fluid political landscape that will only become a litle more solid after two State elections due for this weekend.
The role of unions in the workers’ compensation reform process will be interesting to watch as they come off the semi-victory they have achieved on OHS reforms.