Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Worked for the dole and ended up injured

GREGORY WARREN THOMSON went out to work for the dole and ended up injured.

His previous job working for his unemployment benefits in northern NSW had been with the Tweed Maritime Museum, but on September 21 five years ago he was asked to present himself at a labour hire company the next day.

Not having been told anything to the contrary, he expected a similar job and turned up in similar clothing and the flat-soled shoes he wore at the museum.

Mr Thomson was taken by bus to a farm for distressed animals and told to do fencing work. When he asked for steel capped boots, which other workers were wearing, the supervisor told him no boots were available for him.

Mr Thomson, then 36, was given little or no instruction, supervision, or training and ordered to help put up a 1.8-metre fence with cyclone mesh to keep in alpacas and wallabies.

The fence was to be erected on a rocky and downwards sloping uneven area with stones and loose gravel.

To attach the mesh Mr Thomson had to work with his hands above his head, looking upwards, while walking across rubble. His feet slid and he fell down the slope into a trench.

Mr Thompson's lower left leg snapped and the bone was pushing through the skin. He was taken to hospital in extreme pain over dirt roads without any first aid. He needed an operation and was bedridden for three months.

Last week he was awarded $199,550.19 in compensation for past and future economic losses and expenses.

The District Court judge Brian Knox found Twin Towns Employment Enterprises owed Mr Thomson a duty of care. "There was an inequality of bargaining power between the parties given that the plaintiff was effectively required to work for the defendant where, and when, and how he was directed - otherwise he would risk losing unemployment benefits," Judge Knox said.

"[Mr Thomson] had very little say in the work he carried out."

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