Truckie claims ACC holding him to ransom

By Christine Linnell

An injured, unemployed truck driver from Greymouth says he feels blackmailed by ACC after they threatened to stop his payments if he would not train for office work.
“I used to work on a gold claim driving big trucks. Now they want me to be a word processor because I know how to send an e-mail.”
Mark Sunley was forced to resign from his job at Humphreys Mining Ltd, near Hokitika, after he injured his head and shoulder while falling out of bed. He has been on ACC payments for the past 17 months while he undergoes specialist treatment at the Southern Rehabilitation Institute, in Christchurch.
The accident aggravated a condition the doctors initially thought was Parkinson’s disease, Mr Sunley said, but it turned out to be a central tremor. It took six months to work out the diagnosis.
Now Mr Sunley risks losing his ACC payments because he refuses to complete their ‘work ready service’ training programme.
“They want me to push all that out the door and re-train for something else. Going from an outside person to an inside person would just kill me.”
Mr Sunley said he felt blackmailed by ACC.
“I thought when you go on to ACC they fix you up so you can go back into your original job, not dick you around.”
ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said a medical assessment concluded that Mr Sunley would be unable to return to his pre-injury work.
“The vocational assistance recommended in the work ready service plan is aimed at assisting Mr Sunley to obtain suitable alternative employment.
“This assistance included customer service and sales training courses, along with computer training and the creation of an individual CV.”
However, Mr Sunley said ACC’s suggested career paths were not acceptable and his medical specialist disagreed with their assessment. One of the options was ‘roller driver’.
Mr Sunley said that was one of many tasks required on a construction site, not a specific job title, and ACC’s suggestion for that was “plucked out of thin air”.
ACC also suggested he go into courier work or word processing, but his specialist recommended against work involving heavy lifting or small motions with his fingers, including typing.
Mr Sunley said he had been cleared to operate large vehicles, as long as he was not rattled around too much.
“Even to be truck driving is so much better, because I love driving.”
Ms Melville said they were addressing Mr Sunley’s concerns and had agreed to obtain further specialist opinion before continuing with work ready service training.