South Australian police officers injured in the line of duty will have full workers compensation restored, after the State Government backed down in its bid to limit benefits after two years.
The Government said it had now reached an agreement with the state’s Police Association (PASA) “which provides ongoing medical cover and income support for police officers injured in dangerous situations”.
- Injured SA Police officers will have full medical benefits restored
- The Police Association of South Australia reached an agreement with the State Government over the matter, following a campaign by officers
- The changes will be factored into the enterprise agreement, along with a 2.5 per cent pay rise
Under the State Government’s Return to Work Act, which began on July 1, payments to injured workers were to cease after two years unless their injuries are deemed “catastrophic”, which means a 30 per cent whole person impairment.
That sparked a backlash, with hundreds of officers waging a campaign to have entitlements restored in full.
“[This] outcome satisfies all the parameters the association requested in its Protect Our Cops campaign,” PASA said in a statement.
“The Return to Work legislation proved to be one of the most significant concerns ever to face SA police officers.
“It is certainly one of the biggest and most serious campaigns the association has ever run.
“This result brings enormous relief to not only police officers – who might’ve hesitated entering dangerous situations – but also the community they protect.”
Family First MP Robert Brokenshire, who prepared an amendment bill to restore benefits, also welcomed the reversal.
“[We] are going to leave our Police (Return to Work) Amendment Bill on the table ready for a vote until the promised changes by regulation are signed and gazetted,” he said.
“Family First were pleased to work strategically with the association to put pressure on the Government to get this result.”
Negotiations expected with other emergency service unions
The Government said the deal would cost $2.2 million annually.
The agreement with the Police Association forms part of a new enterprise agreement, and will not require changes to the Return to Work Act.
“This is consistent with the way the arrangements were previously. We’ve simply adjusted those conditions to meet the new legislation and we’re confident we now have a position that is satisfactory,” Industrial Relations Minister John Rau said.
SA Unions has previously said exemptions to the controversial two-year, 30 per cent impairment clauses should not just apply to police.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said the deal would see other unions demanding similar provisions in enterprise agreements.
“My understanding is the government’s already had some discussions with those groups,” he said.
“It’s now time for the government to come clean with the people of South Australia and say what are the deals that they’re currently doing.”
Police Minister Peter Malinauskas said he anticipated further discussions with other emergency service unions about whether similar repeals would extend to their members.
I can be confident that in the future my medical expenses and the ongoing treatment that I’ll need to stay at work … will be met and covered.Senior Constable Brett Gibbon
“Other emergency services will pay a lot of attention to this outcome,” he said.
“If they have reasonable requests and good arguments, we’ll assess those on their merits.”
Police officers have expressed relief, with Senior Constable Gibbon labelling it a “common sense outcome”.
“I can be confident that in the future my medical expenses and the ongoing treatment that I’ll need to stay at work … will be met and covered,” he said.
“I’ve got several surgeries that I have still yet to undergo. There’ll be some reconstructive surgery around the mouth and I’m actually due in hospital next week to have some teeth implants.
“If this agreement hadn’t been reached then I could have been liable for those ongoing expenses and that would have been a lifetime expense essentially.”
Senior Constable Alison Coad said the outcome had prompted “a lot of tears” and “a lot of high fives”.
“That’s just because of the sheer relief of knowing that we have that security in the remainder of our careers and it’s very overwhelming. It’s been a very stressful time,” she said.