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Opposition forces compensation amendments

EMPLOYERS face an extra 100 per cent hike in workers’ compensation insurance premiums over the next two years thanks to the WA Labor Party and the Democrats.

On 14 September the two groups successfully moved amendments in the WA Parliament that will lead to increases in premiums.

Some employers have already faced premium hikes of almost 600 per cent over the past three years.

Several WA aged and community care facilities could be closed by Christmas due to soaring workers’ compensation premiums.

One residential care service provider reported premiums hadrisen 569 per cent from $141,000 to $944,000 in the past three years and those of a smaller provider went up 512 per cent from $17,000 to $237,000 in the same period.

Chamber of Commerce and Indus-try director operations Brendan McCarthy said the Opposition seemed unable to comprehend the fact that an open-ended capacity for workers to sue their employers was unaffordable.

“It appears blind to the consequences for employment and the

viability of WA businesses,” Mr McCarthy said.

He said Victoria and South Australia did not allow common law claims at all and, unless costs were stabilised in WA soon, this state might need to go that way too.

Labour Relations Minister Cheryl Edwardes said Labor’s amendments aggravated the current financial plight of the workers’ compensation system.

However, Curtin Business School senior lecturer in Industrial Law Rob Guthrie said the WA Government’s proposed legislation had ignored some recommendations from the Pearson Committee Report on the ailing workers’ compensation system.

He said provisions relating to the election of common law rights had been extended well beyond the proposals of the report.

“The provisions the government had included, in effect, almost abolish common law rights and that was not the intention of the recommendations,” Mr Guthrie said.

“Mrs Edwardes appears to have only taken notice of employer and insurer interests,” Mr Guthrie said.

“The Pearson report attempted to consider the interests of all the parties, including workers, and the government’s proposals tilted the balance in favour of employers and insurers.”

Law Society of WA president John Ley said the government’s proposed workers’ compensation changes were another slap in the face for workers.

“They fly in the face of the very first recommendation of the Pearson review which was that all injured workers should have the flexibility to pursue common law damages if they can prove their employer was negligent,” Mr Ley said.

“The government’s Bill effectively ruled out the majority of common law claims and represented a very serious setback for workers in this state.

“The intent and effect of this legislation was quite clear and heavily weighted in favour of insurance companies against the rights of workers.

However, the CCI believes the Law Society has a vested interest in keeping the common law claims area open. A CCI spokesman said it appeared the Law Society and the Bar Association had put Labor up to blocking the government’s proposals.

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