It is bewildering that in this day and age, an organisation, service, or any individual would need to be told to treat people with ‘dignity and respect’.

And yet WorkSafe has been instructed to do far more than that in an Independent Review into Management of Complex Workers’ Compensation Claims.

The changes respond to recommendations from an independent review conducted by Peter Rozen QC into the Victorian workers’ compensation scheme’s management of complex WorkCover claims. Mr Rozen’s report found the outsourced agent model is unsuitable when it comes to dealing with certain complex claims.

All the above recommendations stemmed from the 2019 Victorian Ombudsman’s (VO) report WorkSafe 2: Follow-up investigation into the management of complex workers compensation claims.  

I am a case study in that report as was everyone who was treated poorly! The VO revealed disturbing examples of injured workers unfairly treated and denied their legal entitlements.

The report pointed to a systemic problem with the model of claims management for complex claims and insufficient oversight and review mechanisms.

WorkSafe Victoria Instructed to Treat Injured Workers With Dignity and Respect

Some of the stand-out instructions made to WorkSafe by Mr Rozen are very hard to read:

  • WorkSafe to control when surveillance can be used on workers
  • Return to work co-ordinators should be trained
  • WorkSafe to treat workers with dignity and respect
  • Amend the objectives of the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (Vic) Section 10 of the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013 (Vic) should be amended by the addition of the following objectives:
    • To ensure that injured workers or dependants are treated fairly by WorkSafe; and
    • To ensure that workers who suffer injuries at work receive high-quality service and are treated with dignity and respect.

The abundant distress and ignition in my body – just reading or hearing the name ‘WorkSafe’ makes it hard to write this or even read the report.

But I had to. I am preparing you see…

I had to go slow, and for a couple of weeks now, I have put off writing this post because I know what happens to my body and mind when anything comes up about WorkSafe.

Consistent with the Victorian Government’s response to the Review recommendations, WorkSafe will focus its immediate efforts on the phased transition of 1,500 long-term injured workers to direct case management support by WorkSafe by the end of 2022.

My letter has arrived informing me that I am one of the 1,500 long-term injured workers WorkSafe is contacting. 

So, I had to learn what this was about.

It would be best if you were prepared in these distressing situations even though you anticipate the return to the fire pit. 

A letter from WorkSafe is never a simple letter. It will never be pleasant, never hopeful and nor will it ever be about justice, support or care.

Letters from WorkSafe are about WorkSafe and steered only at ticking their boxes. 

Injured workers now have to help WorkSafe clean up their mess. So the equation of injury is now being extended further to; injury, pain, panic, distress, trauma, financial beating, grief, life losses, anger, aloneness, despair, and more trauma. 

How do you manage these tyrants?

I don’t speak to my case manager; Theo (my partner) manages all required paperwork and communication. I haven’t done it for years since the VO’s report changed things a little and gave me the courage to speak up and avoid contact. 

That was until I made a mistake recently thinking someone was calling regarding my Mum’s care, and I picked up the phone.

Idiot Soula.

My ‘caring’ case manager spewed out the vilest and uncaring, most self-centred attempt at a conversation to excuse how ‘sorry she was for my distress’. 

In trying to befriend me, she told me how sorry she was to hear recently from another injured worker with no superannuation. Their injury occurred after the legislation change preventing injured workers from receiving ongoing superannuation payments. 

You can’t expect a case manager to have tact or do their research before they call you. You can’t expect them to see life from an injured worker’s perspective. I also am one of the injured workers with no Superannuation falling into the gap when it was not deemed as required support. 

I was shaking on the phone, my pelvis went mad, and so did my mouth. And, boy, did my ‘caring’ case manager hear it! I’ve lost more than superannuation fighting these tyrants.

And then, I hung up. And I realised how right I was to avoid speaking to the case manager because anger and distress remained after the call, and she had managed to tick her box.

Again, I was left with the damage. 

Again she got paid. 

Again, I didn’t.

No Hope

I have no reason to believe any support will come of these recommendations, nor the recent letter WorkSafe posted to me. I have no reason to believe this organisation will ever get it right.

And there is one blatant clue that certifies it for me. Where is the word ‘justice’ in all this communication? And why do WorkSafe and its agents escape liability yet again?

To the Victorian Government, WorkSafe Victoria, Mr Rozen, The Minister for Workplace Safety, the Department of Justice and Community Safety. To the WorkSafe Board, WorkCover Advisory Committee, the Legal Liaison Group, the Workplace Incidents Consultative Committee. To all the advisors and WorkSafe friends who had anything to do with this review process, where are the wages, the financial and treatment support injured Victorian workers have lost? How about we start a conversation and discuss payback?

How about you don’t call me until you learn the meaning of justice and accountability? 

I, and every other injured worker, are not here to tick your boxes and clean up your filthy reputation.