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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COMPENSATION FOR OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES AND DISEASES AMENDMENT BILL

9 SEPTEMBER 1997

COSATU applauds Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Labour for the amendments which it has made to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases ("COIDA") Amendment Bill. We call on parliamentarians to vote in favour of these amendments when the Bill is considered in Parliament later in the week.

A number of the amendments to the COIDA Amendment Bill will impact positively on the lives of workers who are injured or become ill at their work places. For example:

  • The dependents of workers who die due to work place accidents and diseases will now have an extended right to compensation beyond the age of 18 years, if their parents could reasonably have been expected to have assisted in their maintenance through their secondary and tertiary education. (clause 21)
  • If a worker's injuries have an "unusually severe consequence", such as, a carpenter who loses a thumb, the Director General will now have the discretion to increase the amount of compensation to be paid to that worker. (clause 18)
  • In order to foster healthier, safer work places trade union representatives and health and safety representatives will have the right to inspect any information, register or record regarding health and safety matters in the work place. (clause 28)
  • Injured workers who temporarily suffer total disablement shall be entitled to a prescribed minimum compensation, rather than only a maximum amount as was originally proposed. (clause 17)
  • Workers will have a full right to claim compensation for any diseases arising out of the course and scope of their employment as compensation will not be limited to diseases resulting from exposure to substances at the workplace or due to particular workplace practices, as was originally proposed. (clause 18)
  • Injured workers who temporarily suffer total disablement will have the right to receive compensation for 24 months and not just for 12 months as was originally proposed. (clause 17)
  • Persons affected by the decisions of the Commissioner will now have 180 days, rather than 90 days, to lodge a complaint against the Commissioner's decision. (clause 33)

COSATU also wishes to highlight that based on submissions to the Labour Portfolio Committee, the Committee has recommended that the following matters should be further investigated by the Department and be resolved within the next 18 months:

  • The urgent inclusion of domestic workers under COIDA, as the matter has been under investigation since 1992.
  • Mechanisms must be put into place to compensate injured and sick black workers who prior to June 1977, were excluded from the provisions of the racist Workmen's Compensation Act.
  • Mechanisms must be put in place to increase the compensation to low wage earners who receive much lower compensation for the same injuries or diseases as higher paid workers.
  • Each year compensation levels should be inflation adjusted in order to ensure that the on-going erosion of real compensation levels is brought to an end.

COSATU calls on the Portfolio Committee to ensure that the recommendations as to the extension of the compensation system to cover domestic workers, the compensation of workers excluded by previous racist legislation and an overhaul of the compensation system are speedily implemented by government.

The new constitution provides a backdrop against which the compensation regime's removal of workers' rights to civil claims must be viewed, requiring that benefits for occupational disease and injury need to be increased. Furthermore, changes are required to the manner in which permanent disability is calculated as the system has not been updated since 1941, and an integration of all health and safety legislation which presently sees different standards applied to different categories of workers needs to be fully considered.

In short, a radical overhaul of health safety and compensation legislation is urgently required. COSATU will actively monitor developments in this area. The COIDA Amendment Bill represents the beginning of a more fundamental reform of the compensation system.

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