June 17, 2008
ACC bill must pass - EPMU
Proposed changes to ACC are too important to New Zealand workers to play politics on says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union
The changes, which are due for a second reading in Parliament today, would mean ACC cover would be extended to include workers who suffer mental injury due to workplace trauma.
In 1991 coal miner and EPMU member John Stone was buried alive for 20 hours in the cab of his mining vehicle after the mine he was working in collapsed, and despite suffering ongoing trauma and not being able to continue to work underground after the experience he has not been able to access accident compensation for loss of earnings or to pay for counselling.
He says that although the changes will not be backdated to cover him it will help to repair the mental damage others suffer from traumatic experiences at work.
“People see me walking down the street and at work and think everything is okay with me but what they don’t understand is just how much people go through after something like this happens to them, what goes on behind closed doors.
“You might seem one hundred percent but deep down that experience goes on again and again and you try to get on with life but there’s not a lot of support out there for getting it fixed. Hopefully other people who have this sort of thing happen will be able to get the support they need with this change.”
EPMU National Secretary Andrew Little says the changes to ACC need the full support of every MP in the house.
“Many of our members and many other New Zealanders work in areas where the risk of a serious traumatic experience is high and so we want to see this go through as quickly as possible so that those who are unlucky enough to go through an experience like John’s are properly looked after and given a decent change to get well again.
“We are also pleased to see that the bill finally puts the cost of investigating claims for workers who suffer gradual process injuries and diseases onto ACC as many of our members and ex-members have struggled to get compensation for injuries and diseases caused by long term exposure to dangerous substances.”
The EPMU represents fifty thousand New Zealand workers in 11 industries including high risk areas such as the mining, oil and gas and timber industries.