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SA Police win "Australia's best" workers' compo deal

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South Australia's police officers have won what's been described as the most significant injury protection entitlements deal granted to any group of employees in Australia, InDaily can reveal.

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The deal locks in income and medical expenses entitlements for injured police officers that can last more than 40 years longer than mandated workplace injury compensation offered to other South Australian workers.

“It’s hard to overstate the significance of this,”  Leischke & Weatherill industrial lawyer Michael Ats, who assisted the Police Association in negotiations with the Government, told InDaily.

“This is probably the best deal anywhere in Australia for employees beyond what legislation allows.”

In late 2015, hundreds of police officers and their families marched in protest against the Government’s Return To Work Act, which cut off injured workers’ income payments after two years, and their medical expense payments after three (except for those with the most serious, “catastrophic” injuries). Under previous legislation, eligible injured workers had been able claim medical expenses and income support until retirement age.

The Police Association’s “Protect Our Cops” campaign featured Senior Constable Brett Gibbon, shot in the face 2011, whose medical expenses compensation would have been capped under the controversial law.

By early 2016, the Government bowed to pressure, agreeing to changes to the police workers’ enterprise bargaining agreement that fully restored entitlements that had been stripped by the Return To Work Act.

But the concession was an “interim measure only” until legislative or regulatory changes could be drafted to make the restored entitlement permanent.

That permanency has been achieved instead through amendments to the Police Officers’ Award – as forecast by InDaily last month – and approved by the Employment Tribunal on Tuesday.

In a newsletter sent to members earlier this week, seen by InDaily, Police Association president Mark Carroll says the agreement granted the state’s police officers a “better outcome” than any other employee group covered under the Return To Work Act.

“Workers in this state will never be able to go back to the entitlements that existed before this legislation, but we have fought painstakingly hard to achieve what we think is a very good outcome for police – certainly a better outcome than any other group of workers who come under this legislation,” Carroll says.

“We successfully fought against it (the Return To Work Act) with the ‘Protect Our Cops’ campaign, but this latest process has been about ensuring the legal longevity of the agreement.”

Ats described the deal as “the most significant protection against work injuries and illness in any award or enterprise agreement I know of”.

“(It’s) an outstanding achievement,” he said.

“Officers hurt protecting the community will now have – in some cases – income and medical expense compensation for 40 years longer than under the legislation.

“It has been an absolute privilege to support PASA’s work to deliver this game-changing result for its members.”

Police Minister Chris Picton, also quoted in the newsletter, said: “I am pleased that an agreement has been reached to support our police force for the work they do to keep our community safe.”

“I would like to thank the Police Association and everyone who worked on the agreement.

“I am glad that this has now been resolved to provide certainty and protections to our police.”

Under the previous act, eligible injured workers could claim medical expenses until retirement age.

It appears likely the deal will act as a precedent for other emergency services unions to pursue better entitlements for their own members.

Carroll told InDaily this morning: “I’d be surprised if they didn’t.”

“My understanding is that other emergency services unions… are discussing these issues with the Government.”

Industrial Relations Minister John Rau said in a statement this afternoon that “what has been agreed with PASA (the Police Association) is the formal execution of the agreement reached last year”.

“The advice was that it would cost $2.2 million,” he said.

“The Government has made it clear that emergency services would be places in a similar position.

“We have been in conversation with them [with] a view to finalising those agreements.”

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