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Forgotten: Injured CQ miners in rehab left in painful limbo

LEAVE DENIED: Yeppoon man Darren Brown injured his elbow at work at Cook Colliery Mine on January 3,2016, while working in a confined space with his arm operating at a 'weird angle' as he tightened bolts. He is due to fly to Brisbane in August to see a specialist as he still undergoes rehabilitation.
LEAVE DENIED: Yeppoon man Darren Brown injured his elbow at work at Cook Colliery Mine on January 3,2016, while working in a confined space with his arm operating at a 'weird angle' as he tightened bolts. He is due to fly to Brisbane in August to see a specialist as he still undergoes rehabilitation. Kerri-Anne Mesner

COOK Colliery mine workers injured on their former work site and undergoing rehabilitation have been left in painful limbo.

The Cook Colliery mine owner and Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal part-owner was placed into administration earlier this year with a debt of about $4billion.

The owner - Caledon Coal - owes its employees $22million and WICET more than $24million, according to a report by administrators.

Five of 18 workers with open workers compensation claims (PPB Advisory report July 5) at the time Caledon Coal went into administration spoke with The Morning Bulletin this week.

They said they were either on light duties working at Cook Colliery or off work rehabilitating when the mine collapsed.

 

The longwall at the troubled Cook Colliery.
The longwall at the troubled Cook Colliery. Contributed

They claim once Caledon Coal went into administration they were pushed by WorkCover Queensland into doing Host placements (a Recover at Work program designed to achieve work fitness, while vocational placement opportunities help workers to remain at work during their injury recovery) that aggravate their injuries and give no prospective retraining options.

They also claim many are being pushed to increase their hours faster so they result in doing 38 hours a week - a standard work week - which WorkCover can then - them off and being 'returned to work' against the worker's doctor's orders.

Claims also included their payments being cut from 100% of their wages they were earning at Cook Colliery to 75%.

"We were sold this Host employment dream under the banner of returning of retraining. They are not retraining," one of the men said.

Another worker, Darren Brown, said he even had his payment cut when he needed to take time off from Host placement for compassionate leave or time to watch his son play in a state-wide rugby league carnival - despite being owed 188 hours annual leave and 90 hours sick leave by Caledon Coal.

A mine truck driver, who didn't want to be identified, said he was now wiping shelves and sweeping floors at an electrical wholesaler.

Another miner, Paul Vann, who has worked in the industry for 42 years, said he could barely handle working four hours three days a week as a handyman at Southside United Soccer Club when WorkCover told him he had to up the hours to six hours a day, five days a week.

 

Paul Vann, 58, did the splits vertically after his foot slipped while he was climbing down off a machine. He was still playing and coaching soccer right up until the accident on November 13, 2016.
Paul Vann, 58, did the splits vertically after his foot slipped while he was climbing down off a machine. He was still playing and coaching soccer right up until the accident on November 13, 2016. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Mr Vann was playing soccer at age 57, but his accident on November 13 2016 - where he has slipped coming down a machine 1.8 metres tall and ended up doing the splits vertically - has left him unable to kick a soccer ball, ride his motorbike or stand for any longer than one hour at a time.

"To me, I will never be back to where I was," he said.

Mirani MP and former union representative in the CQ coal industry Jim Pearce is aware of the situation and considering how "to bring this to head".

A WorkCover Queensland spokesperson said WorkCover does not comment on individual cases due to privacy legislation.

However, WorkCover did provide information about the Host placement system.

"If suitable duties are not available at the worker's original place of employment, WorkCover facilitates host employment opportunities in three ways - via our Recover at Work program; engaging medical and allied health providers; and supporting the worker directly to identify host employment opportunities suited to their career goals," the spokesperson said.

"Injured workers are not always able to return to their existing employment as their employer may not have suitable duties to offer.

"WorkCover's Recover at Work program places injured workers in short term host employment with employers who have an established track record of successful return to work outcomes with their own workers."

The spokesperson said if suitable duties are not available with the injured worker's current employer, WorkCover liaises with the worker's current employer and suitable host employers (taking industry and location into consideration) to determine appropriate suitable duties which the worker can undertake during their recovery.

Topics:  caledon coal cook colliery jim pearce workcover workers compensation workplace injuries



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