High cost of workers comp

IT'S a huge source of frustration to Ballina businessman Ron van Setten that if he lived in Victoria or Queensland, he reckons he would be paying at least half what he does now to provide workers' compensation cover for his 16 employees.

The owner of Northern Rivers Mobility and Scooter Solutions wants an urgent overhaul of the NSW WorkCover system, which he believes is highly inefficient and a soft touch.

Mr van Setten said the growing cost of WorkCover premiums, which is calculated on employee wages, could be the last straw for businesses in financial stress and was a disincentive to employ staff.

"The Victorian and Queensland system ought to be emulated and a national model put in place," he said.

The State Government has warned that unless WorkCover is overhauled, premiums may have to increase by 28% to cover a $4 billion blow-out in the system.

Mr van Setten said this would see his WorkCover premium increase from $9000 a year to $12,000.

NSW Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce has formed a parliamentary committee to investigate the scheme and its financial sustainability.

The government has the support of the NSW Chamber of Commerce which claims if the current system is allowed to continue it will be a disaster for business owners.

Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright said: "NSW already has higher premiums than Victoria and Queensland, so any premium increase will only exacerbate the many imposts on business owners throughout NSW, and further weaken their capacity to compete and to provide employment."

But unions and the State Opposition are suspicious the State Government is preparing to abandon sick and injured workers and have accused the government of stacking the committee with party stooges.

Unions NSW Secretary Mark Lennon said sick and injured workers lived with enough anxiety and called on the State Government to rule out any savage cuts of the WorkCover scheme.

Mr Lennon said any such cuts would do nothing to reduce the number of injuries at work and provide no incentives for employers to keep on injured workers.

"Sick and injured workers have a hard enough time without suffering further anxiety about how they will pay the bills and look after their family," he said.

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