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Proposed changes to ACC diminish workers interests

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Proposed changes to ACC diminish workers interests

Opening up the work-injury account of the Accident Compensation system to competition from private insurers will not make it more efficient or effective, says public policy specialist Dr Grant Duncan from the University's School of Social and Cultural Studies.

Dr Duncan, who has conducted research on accident compensation for many years, says the proposal put forward by the Government would largely benefit the insurance industry. "The interests of employees injured at work will come last," he says.

He points out that the insurer’s customer will be the employers, not the employees, yet injured employees will be dependent on the insurer for support and care. Private insurers will be less accountable to the public under the proposed system, he says.

“The only real options available to insurers to keep premiums down will be to curtail the benefits paid to injured workers and their families, or to dismiss claims as non-work-related accidents – which employees themselves fund through the PAYE levy.”

“This issue is a symptom of the clash of class interests – those of employers and shareholders versus those of the employees who risk injury daily at work. The National Party wants to make this an election issue, so it will be interesting to see if the majority of New Zealand’s voters – who are mainly employees – will accept their proposed policy.

“Employers argue that they need the competitive financial incentives of an insurance contract to reduce the incidence of deaths and injuries at work. So they’re admitting that they aren’t already making every effort to protect workers’ lives and personal safety. It reflects poorly upon them as managers, and not on the ACC system.”

Dr Duncan is a senior lecturer in public policy at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Albany campus.

ENDS

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