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QRC calls for review on coal workers’ pneumoconiosis compensation

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World Coal,

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has written to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the Hon Grace Grace, calling for a taskforce to urgently review the Workers’ Compensation Scheme’s ability to deal with some cases of Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (CWP).

The QRC’s position, outlined to the Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis Select Committee, is that workers who contract CWP at work should receive fair compensation in a timely fashion, and that coal employers should be able to provide the needed funding through the existing scheme.

According to a statement from QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche, while QRC remains supportive of the scheme, evidence already given to the CWP Select Committee (inquiry), and directly to the QRC by CWP victims, suggests some workers with CWP are having difficulties accessing timely compensation.

The statement also indicated that it appears the scheme may need improvement to deal adequately with cases, for example, where the condition is ‘simple’ CWP – a term used to describe those with little or no impairment to work – and are likely to live long and healthy lives if removed from dusty environments.

The concern is that these workers may have significant pay cuts as they move into different roles and their only avenue for compensation would be legal action for loss of earnings.

QRC would also like to see any concerned retired worker being able to access X-rays, CT scans and reviews by respiratory specialists paid for by the scheme (and in turn by premiums paid by coal employers).

The council is also aware of retired workers with an acknowledged diagnosis of CWP, and who have had multiple employers throughout their career, who have faced delays in receiving support while decisions are made about apportionment of responsibility.

The QRC and its coal members have therefore come to the view that the workers’ compensation scheme may need some revision so that it can better deal with the issues raised by CWP.

It is vital that the proposed taskforce has representatives from all parties to achieve the best outcomes for Queensland coal workers. QRC recommends that this taskforce be chaired by an independent and eminent relevant expert, and include representatives from WorkCover, self insurers, the Queensland Resources Council and the mining unions. The council believe that the taskforce should be convened as a matter of urgency and be asked to report by no later than end-March 2017.

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