2011 Clawing back death and disability benefits

On 2 November 2011, the Police Minister announced a new scheme that would slash pay and protections for injured police who were medically discharged from the force.

The Government intended to introduce the necessary legislation into parliament immediately. There was no consultation with the Association or recourse for changes to the proposal.

Since 2005, around 1200 police had been medically discharged after assessment by independent medical practitioners. The scheme was under significant financial pressure.

Recognising this, the Association had already spent months in good-faith negotiations with NSW Police and Treasury officials to improve the scheme.

The Association immediately devised a political and industrial strategy seeking to stop or delay the impending legislation.

The Executive endorsed industrial action, advising members to issue discretionary warnings instead of fines for minor offences. This cost the NSW Government an estimated $11 million.

As Level 3 industrial action was implemented right across the state, a political and media campaign was launched simultaneously.

On Tuesday 22 November around 5000 members from around the state, mostly in uniform, attended a rally outside NSW Parliament protesting those changes. Several members (and their families) spoke publicly about the physical and psychological injuries they had sustained on the job.

The Association obtained some concessions around the transition arrangements, but were unable to stop the new legislation. It was passed in Parliament on 25 November 2011.

With support from the cross-benchers, amendments were secured including:

  • Top up of Workers’ Compensation Sick Leave increased from 6 to 9 months

  • Member contributions capped at 1.8% of salary.

  • Lump Sum benefits for Total and Permanent Incapacity improved

  • Income Protection Coverage improved from 65% to 75% for 5 years.

The Association’s resolve was further strengthened at our 2012 Biennial Conference. Delegates deemed the Police Death and Disability Scheme to be seriously inadequate especially regarding TPD (Total and Permanent Disability) benefits.

Subsequently, the Association was able to link a long running salaries case with the Death & Disability claim in the IRC.

In 2013, the NSW Government agreed to substantially improve benefits for our most seriously injured members. Through hard work and sheer determination, members’ clawed back approximately $70 million in entitlements.

(On a separate note, in 2012 when the NSW Government instituted massive changes to workers compensation, the Association succeeded in getting Police Officers exempted. Police officers still have access to journey claims and lump sum section 66/67 payments. There is no limit on workers comp for Police.)