ACC PROTEST : Strong and weak points

Don Franks

 The Accident Compensation Commission has “blown out’ financially and needs major reform, ACC minister Nick Smith claimed last year. The government now says it must control costs by raising levies, cutting entitlements and coverage, and privatising parts of ACC.

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Seasonal and part time workers, people needing hearing aids and sexual abuse survivors stand to be particularly disadvantaged by proposed ACC cuts.

On February 16th  two hundred people opposing these measures rallied at parliament .The protesters were mostly unionists and bikers, angry at ACC levy increases specifically aimed at them. 

The best part of the protest was general unity against the privatisation of ACC.

 However, official speeches failed to recognize capitalist drive for profit as the cause of ACC cuts and workplace accidents.

 Instead, there was much nationalist rhetoric.

 Labour opposition leader Phil Goff got a big cheer when he warned Australian owned insurance companies: “Privatise ACC in New Zealand at your peril, because when Labour is back you are going to be out of here and we are taking it back.”

The NZ Council of Trade Unions presented a nationalistic defence of the status quo:

“ACC is the world’s best accident and injury compensation scheme and something New Zealand should be proud of.”

 The ACC Future Coalition, an alliance of unions and healthcare providers distributed a leaflet claiming   that future government moves could result in “profit sucked out of New Zealand” and that “ACC works for all kiwis”

 ACC is not about nice kiwis versus bad foreigners. In the real world, it’s not “all kiwis”, but the working class who disproportionally suffer from industrial accidents.

 Provisional data for the 2007 calendar year showed 231,300 work-related injury claims reported to the ACC by 31 March 2008. This included 67 work-related fatalities. This is likely to be an underestimation of the final number of fatalities, because some workers may have died later from injuries received in the period. (The number of claims for fatal injuries inflicted in 2006 that were recorded by March 2007 was 81; the final number of fatal injury claims for 2006 was 103). Moreover, not all fatal work-related accidents result in a claim to the ACC.

 Workers Party comrades distributed a leaflet at the protest titled :

 AGAINST CAPITALIST CARNAGE

 Our leaflet said in part:

 “Right now changes are being proposed to ACC which will have a serious impact on access to healthcare and counseling. While rich bosses and corrupt politicians can afford private healthcare and receive preferential treatment in the public healthcare system, working class people are once again under attack.”

 “Workplace injuries would generally not happen if the workplace itself was safer. The responsibility for this does not lie with the workers, it lies with the capitalist bosses. Employers drive for maximum profit leads them to impose the accident causing staff reductions and speedups.  Bosses do not pay for the accidents they are responsible for. Instead, the working class is forced to pay for treating the many injuries dealt to those in its ranks. Workers pay for this through levies on their wages and on the petrol they use driving to work. At a time when it’s getting harder every day just to make ends meet, an increase in ACC levies will hit us hard. This is not acceptable”.

 “These cutbacks are part of a series of attacks on working people carried out by successive National and Labour governments, and we need to fight back. We need to build a movement against not just a particular law or a particular government, but against the entire capitalist system, a system organised to create private profit rather than meet human need.”

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