CODE 2, VOL 29, NO 40 : 18 September 2015

Workers compensation laws passed by parliament

Changes to the workers’ compensation laws were passed by parliament on 17 September.

Restoration of employees’ rights

The changes reversed some Newman government laws by restoring common law rights, (and extending them to volunteer firies), and removing the right for employers to trawl through job applicants' private records without permission.  Predictably, these changes were not supported by LNP MP’s.

Presumptive legislation

Our ongoing campaign to win presumptive legislation also finally paid off, with bi-partisan support for changes to the process for firefighters making claims about occupational cancers.  At last, the laws have passed Queensland parliament.

The laws reverse the onus of proof so that firefighters won’t have to demonstrate that certain illnesses are work related, and places the onus on workers’ compensation insurers to prove that the cancers were not work related.

The changes will make genuine workers’ compensation claims simpler and easier to progress.

As we have reported over many years, this achievement has arisen from a long dedicated campaign commenced overseas, with research, lobbying and legislation and co-operation between the international firefighters’ union (IAFF) and our national Australian union (UFUA).

I was amongst the 2011 national firefighters’ delegation converging on the federal parliament in Canberra to launch our strategic national campaign to win presumptive laws across the country.

In December 2013 the Queensland ALP opposition gave written commitments to your union that if they were elected they would introduce presumptive laws.  In December 2014, the then LNP government gave a similar commitment to your union.

UFUA and UFUQ made extensive submissions to the recent Queensland parliamentary inquiry which were influential in shaping the legislation.

We believe our campaign is vindicated by the bi-partisan political support for the laws, and congratulate all MP’s for their support.

There was some shameful political point scoring throughout recent debates which should have been unnecessary in a genuine bi –partisan concern for the well-being of firefighters.  Although we get used to this kind of political conduct, the wasted opportunity for 100% mature co-operation was not entirely lost, as the laws were ultimately agreed by MP’s from all sides of politics.

No one should lose sight of the real issue at the heart of this political and legislative process.  Our occupation can be dangerous and our members can become very ill through exposure to toxic environments.  In the tragic circumstances of a member requiring workers’ compensation, these laws will make the processing of their claim easier.

It would be infinitely more desirable if members were safe and did not require workers’ compensation at all.

Remember, if you are intending on making a workers’ compensation claim about any issue, contact your union for assistance.

Toxic Culture?

Members may have seen sensationalised recent media reports about alleged toxic cultures within senior medical professions, including allegations of systemic sexual harassment.

Similarly, the media is currently sensationalising allegations of a toxic culture of police violence, sexual harassment and corruption.

Members will note a stark difference in the way these sensationalised allegations of toxic cultures are managed.  In particular you will see the police minister and police commissioner publicly defending police and making the point that if there is any misconduct it would only be a minority and denying any exaggerated notion of a toxic culture.

The minister’s actions and the police chief actions contrast sharply with the spurious approach taken by the former government and fire service leadership when a single notorious incident arose within the fire service.  The dodgy cut and paste, and partly secret, “Allison Report” was cobbled together and used as a political smear job.

Unfortunately, the political smears are still leaching into the fire service and the dodgy “Allison Report” is still lying about on management desks.

Similarly, the dodgy cut and paste “Keelty Review” report is also still lying about on management desks.  We all remember that transparent farce of cobbling together random fads and propaganda to attack our professionalism and working conditions.

Who could forget the infamous twisted "logic” put into Keelty’s mouth by fire service managers emboldened by the radical and belligerent Newman led LNP government?

“Logically it might be thought that the salary and wages paid for doing core business (fighting structural fires) might have dropped in line with the demand for this service but this is not the case.”

Both the dodgy “Allison” and “Keelty” reports were (and continue to be) used either directly, or indirectly, or with some rebadging, to push for all sorts of changes whether relevant to the reports or not.

At the same time the fire service has constructed an elaborate suggestion box presumably to throw more than a few of their feral cats amongst the pigeons.

Our win on presumptive legislation was one of many over years of collective solidarity and strategic planning.  The recent few years have seen us prevail in some of the more challenging political and industrial circumstances we have ever faced.

As always, we must continue to maintain our collective strength and discipline as a union.  If we don’t stick up for each other – who else will?