Fire-fighters prepare biggest
full-scale strike in 56 years
FIRE-FIGHTERS across the state are stopping work today (Thursday) as crossbench MPs told an overnight sitting of the New South Wales Parliament they will support changes to slash WorkCover.
State secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union, Jim Casey, says his members are meeting at 10am in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle to decide if a full-scale strike will go ahead at lunchtime, Sydney media report.
He says there is “every chance” strike action will leave fire stations unstaffed, as fire-fighters protest against the State Government’s plan to cut workers’ compensation payments and medical expenses.
“For the first time since 1956, we’ll have done a full walk out,” says Mr Casey.
As the NSW Upper House continued sitting into the early hours of this morning, Shooters Party MP Robert Borsak said he would support changes to rein in WorkCover’s $4 billion deficit.
“The truth of the matter is the workers’ compensation scheme in its current form is unsustainable and needs fixing,” the former accountant told the chamber.
Fellow crossbencher Paul Green, from the Christian Democrats, said small businesses pay huge WorkCover premiums, and his party will seek to amend the bill.
“Little coffee shops are paying huge premiums and before you even open up in the day they’re thousands of dollars behind the eight-ball before they sell one cup of coffee,” he said.
But Greens industrial relations spokesman, David Shoebridge. said that under the changes all workers, apart from police, will lose the right to claim for injuries sustained travelling to and from work, a right that dated back to 1926.
“A construction worker who’s had five days of 12-hour shifts goes home knackered after working 60 hours in five days and crashes their car because they’re fatigued, won’t get a dollar of compensation,” he said.
The government’s bid to reform WorkCover passed the Lower House late on Tuesday night.
Debate in the Upper House continued into this morning.