In a last-minute reprieve for frontline workers, the NSW Upper House voted to send a Government Bill, which was proposing to strip away workers’ compensation protections for COVID-related claims, for a Committee review over the summer break. The Committee will report on 21 February 2022.
Last year the NSW Parliament agreed to Greens amendments that provided extra protections for frontline workers including nurses, teachers, police, supermarket and retail workers, who caught COVID-19. Because of the difficulties in proving where a worker contracted COVID the law presumes that highly exposed front-line workers contracted COVID at work unless proved otherwise.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet wants to remove these protections from the Workers Compensation Act, and is using grossly inflated cost estimates of COVID-related claims as cover for his attack on workers’ rights.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: “This is a win for frontline workers who protected us during the pandemic and we know will be called on again to protect us in the future.
“This review will allow time to properly assess the inflated costs of COVID protections put forward by the Government and their scandal plagued insurer iCare.
“iCare’s ridiculously high costs estimate of these COVID protections are based on grossly outdated modelling from the Doherty Institute that assumes only 80% vaccination rates in the community.
“While the government is trying to scare businesses with claims these protections will cost more than $600 million, the truth is that for the first 18 months of the epidemic the total cost of all COVID-related claims was less than $20 million.
“Had the Greens motion not been agreed today, frontline workers would have lost their protections as early as next week.
“Right now all workers have COVID risks in their workplace. Rather than wind back the existing protections we should be making changes to create a pathway so that any worker who catches COVID at work can get the support they need.
“No matter where you work, if you get COVID at work you should be entitled to workers’ compensation to pay for lost time and medical expenses.
“This is about fundamental fairness. We will not let the Government rip up worker protections when they are still so needed,” Mr Shoebridge said.