Raw deal for the 'Bloody legend'

Bashed, laid off and now no holiday

Last updated 05:00 25/01/2014

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He's been bashed stopping a drunk driver, laid off from one job and now ACC says Bruce McCulloch can't have a holiday. Libby Wilson reports.

Bruce McCulloch just wants a holiday but he's stuck working - and he isn't being paid for it.

The "bloody legend" is still recovering after being assaulted while trying to stop a teenager from driving drunk last July. It left him needing surgery on three of his vertebrae.

And although he's dreaming of taking his blue VL Commodore to car meets, heading out fishing or taking off overseas, instead he's "paying myself to go to work".

An ACC anomaly means he's unable to get paid by the compo scheme for his recovery until he has used up all the nine weeks holiday pay he received after being made redundant last year by SCA Hygiene in Te Rapa when the tissue line he worked on was closed down.

SCA was "really good" and transferred him to the diaper line in November so he could continue ACC's gradual back to work programme - which involves him doing five-hour days.

But, because of the accumulated holiday pay he had to be paid in his redundancy package, he's having to work that long for nothing before his ACC payments start coming through again.

"It's like going on the dole or something like that. It works out the same way . . . I'm not getting anything at the moment until my nine weeks of holiday leave is up. But I've still got to go to work for a return to work funded programme," he said.

"Anyone that talks to you, they can't believe it.

"My biggest gripe is not being allowed to use any of the holidays for a holiday."

He asked his ACC case manager if he could, and was told it would interfere with his rehabilitation plan.

"If she said ‘you can have a couple of weeks' I'd have been ‘sweet as'," he said.

"I'd love to go for a holiday, to Fiji or something."

Instead he has around two months of living off what is in his bank account, so his plans of enjoying his redundancy payment, paying off bills and taking a chunk out of his mortgage have been put aside.

He consulted an ACC advocate about his situation, but was told similar cases had previously been through the high court without success.

ACC spokesperson Stephanie Melville said Mr McCulloch had received weekly compensation from his accident in July 2013, but the paid-out holiday leave counted as earnings which affected his ACC payments.

"Meanwhile, the SCA has allowed ACC to use the current work environment to help Bruce with his return to vocational independence.

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Hamilton barrister Alex Hope said workers were unable to "double dip" with ACC payments and wages.

"He's lost his job, he has been paid out, so while he's being paid out that's wages for notice. So then he wouldn't be entitled to his weekly compensation."

So for now Mr McCulloch will continue to go to work for nothing, even though he comes home each day and has to sleep for an hour or more because he's "knackered".

But it doesn't put him off. "I'm a worker. I just want to be working."

CATCH-22

Bruce McCulloch is on ACC for a back injury after stopping a drunk driver. He gets laid off from one job with his employer, tissue papermaker SCA and is paid out 9 weeks holiday pay. SCA takes him back in another job but ACC won't pay him for 9 weeks to avoid "double dipping" and says he can't take a holiday as it would disrupt his rehab programme.

BASHED TO THE PATH

It was the early hours of July 6 when 45-year-old Bruce McCulloch noticed a young man, getting ready to leave a Breckons Ave party, in Nawton, drunk.

He had the keys to his car in his hand.

"I told him he shouldn't be driving but he went to his car anyway," Mr McCulloch said at the time.

Rather than confront the man again, Mr McCulloch got in his own truck and backed it across the driveway, blocking in the would-be drink-driver.

But as he walked away, he was attacked. He woke up on the path with ambulance officers attending to him.

While he doesn't remember the actual attack, others told him he was hit, and had his head smacked on the ground.

Police applauded Mr McCulloch's intent, reminiscent of a Transport Agency campaign lauding ‘bloody legends' saving mates from drink driving, but warned people to be careful in such situations.

Mr McCulloch said he had lived in the street for 14 years and he, along with another neighbour, was known for blocking vehicles when a driver had been drinking.

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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