FIGHTING: Steve Zdziarski, of Wallsend, a former Telstra technician, is in a long-running workers’ compensation battle with his old employer. Pictures: Simone De Peak
AFTER 30 years ofworkwith Telstra, Wallsend manStephen Zdziarski lives in a world of painand pain-killers.
A union delegate for 20 years, Mr Zdziarski said he had fought for others, and ignored his own problems, until a table collapsed underneath him at his Tarro workplace in 2001.
This accident, together with the wear and tear from years of manual work in telephone line trenches, left him with back, shoulder, neck and knee problems. Despite multiple arthroscopes andreconstructions of both knees, Mr Zdziarski’s condition has deteriorated to the point where walking is difficult, and even sitting still is painful.
Mr Zdziarski saiddealing with Telstra and its insurer, Comcare, had been no easy matter, but he had been reassured by Telstraacceptingliability for his condition, and paying his fortnightly compo payments, and his medical bills, if grudgingly.
But that all changed in August 2015, when Telstra said itnow believed it was “not liable” for Mr Zdziarski’s condition,based on a report froman orthopaedic surgeon Telstra hadsent him to in September 2014.
That doctorhad “not seen the radiographs taken at the initial time of injury” but believedit was “likely”Mr Zdziarski had “significant” wear to both knees before his fall, and that “any aggravation” at the time would have been “short-lived.”
The surgeon agreedMr Zdziarski’s “current incapacity” was partly dueto“multiple operations of dubious . . . effectiveness”,but Telstra saidhis “current need for medical treatment” and his “incapacity for work” were “not related” to the2001 injury.Mr Zdziarski said he was shocked.
“An employee can’t hand in a back-dated medical certificate for sick pay, yet a doctor can say what he thinks happened 14 years ago to deny liability and to stop paying me,” Mr Zdziarski said.
He said Telstra was pressuring him to live onhis super, but he had seven years to go beforeturning 65. He is fighting the decision to deny liability inthe Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
He wrote to Telstra asking it to co-operate with the Herald’s investigation, but Telstra declined to comment on our inquiries.
SURGICAL SIGNS: Mr Zdziarski’s knees showing 20cm scars on either leg after total knee reconstructions and multiple arthroscopies.