The NSW opposition has vowed to overturn changes to WorkCover that have left families like that of Cargo Road car accident victim James Cantrill out of pocket, Labor Finance and Services spokesman Michael Daley said.
Cutting out workers’ compensation journey claims, for all instances except when a “real and substantial connection” between the accident and employment can be proven, was part of a raft of changes to the scheme the government introduced in June.
It means workers like Mr Cantrill miss out on compensation for accidents to and from work.
Premier Barry O’Farrell said he was forced into the changes because of WorkCover’s $4 billion deficit, but Mr Daley played down the budget blowout and said much of it was caused by share trading losses which will come back when the share market recovers.
He said the Premier had ignored alternative means of recovering the debt and had instead taken benefits from workers.
“It’s pretty low that the Premier refused to meet with Mr Cantrill, but I’m not surprised because there’s no excuse for this government to get rid of journey claims,” he said.
“Travelling to and from work was always considered as part of your working day.”
Mr Daley said putting more inspectors out on the road to make work places safer would improve inefficiencies in the scheme that were driving the deficit, but denied that the move would cost more.
Mr Daley levelled the blame at the insurance companies managing WorkCover, saying almost every witness called to a parliamentary inquiry shared his sentiments.
He said Mr O’Farrell should have forced insurance companies to change the way they administer the scheme.
Mr Daley rejected Mr O’Farrell’s comments that workers’ compensation was not designed to support injured workers over a long-term basis.
“The workers’ compensation laws have always been about getting people back to work,” he said.
“If they can’t work again it’s supposed to look after them until their retirement days.”
A spokeswoman for Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce said a sales representative injured while driving between clients during their working day or a plumber driving between jobs were both examples of where a journey claim could still be considered under the new legislation.
She said all claims would be assessed on a case by case basis to determine whether there was a “real and substantial connection”, but driving to work while not undertaking work related activity was not covered.