The Guardian 18 May, 2005

QBE forced to pay up

Picketers have shamed insurance giant QBE into forking out for a 57-year-old woman’s ankle operation. Angry delegates from the Construction and Timber Divisions of the CFMEU mounted a protest outside QBE’s Parramatta offices, last Friday, after learning that cuts to workers compensation payments ordered by the insurance company had resulted in Isabelita Cruz having her power cut off.

Ms Cruz was forced to quit work after sustaining injuries to her shoulder and ankle. She had been booked in for ankle surgery but the procedure was cancelled when QBE refused to pay.

QBE had slashed the former timber worker’s weekly entitlement to $89.95 a week, forcing her to seek assistance from the Salvation Army.

Timber Workers’ president, Brad Parker, said QBE had also “stood over” a vocational assessment officer to try and have Cruz taken off the books.

After meeting CFMEU protestors, QBE agreed to apologise to the Filipina immigrant, boost her weekly entitlement by around $250 and pay for a long-awaited ankle operation.

“For every Isabelita there are nine other people out there getting done over by insurance companies”, said Brad Parker. “They go to extraordinary lengths to deny injured workers their entitlements. It’s what insurance companies do.

“Isabelita had been a process worker in a bedding factor for over 16 years. Suddenly, they ruled she was fit enough to do clerical work and, on that basis, chopped her payment to $89.95 a week, the difference between the clerical award and the rate for the job she actually did.

“In the end, it was a great result but no more than Isabelita was entitled to.

“These insurance companies have got to start treating workers properly.”

When the CFMEU made contact with her, Isabelita was hobbling around and surviving with the help of Salvation Army handouts.

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