The New Brunswick Federation of Labour cautions the New Brunswick government against cutting workers’ compensation benefits and making changes to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) without involving injured workers in the process.
“For the past 25 years most of the policy changes made at WorkSafeNB benefitted employers. This unbalanced approach began to change in 2015, after a detailed legislative review. This means that employer assessment rates can no longer be kept below the level required to ensure that injured workers receive the benefits to which they are entitled to under the law,” says Patrick Colford, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “Before any significant changes are made to benefit levels and to the Appeals Tribunal, government has a duty to consult injured workers.”
WorkSafeNB recently announced that the average assessment rate was increasing from the current $1.70 per $100 of payroll to $2.92 and is blaming this increased on the 2015 changes made to the WCAT. WorkSafeNB is asking the provincial government to reverse changes brought to the WCAT. Since 2015, the WCAT can change WorkSafeNB policies that infringe on the law and unfairly cut back benefits to which injured workers are entitled.
“The problem is not with the Workers Compensation Appeal’s Tribunal. The problem is that workers’ compensation assessment rates were kept artificially low while workers were not receiving the benefits to which they were entitled under the law,” adds Colford. “It is flawed funding policies and rate setting procedures, that have been in place for the past two decades, which threaten the sustainability of the system, not changes to the Appeals Tribunal.”
Historically, workers compensation rates consistently ranged between $2.00 and $2.50 per $100 in payroll. Unfortunately, from 2006 to 2016, employer rates were effectively halved, going as low as $1.11. Employer rates were lowered because the accident fund was overfunded at 140 per cent. Rather than invest these dollars in prevention measures or reinstate previously clawed back benefits, WorkSafeNB decided to artificially lower employer rates with the surpluses. This rate was not sustainable. Not surprisingly, rates have increased to compensate for maintaining them artificially low for so long.
The labour movement is not alone in conveying this message. Several times over the past year, the office of the New Brunswick Ombud publicly said that low premiums are not part of the principles upon which workers compensations systems are built in Canada. An expectation of low premiums was in fact created by WorkSafeNB itself, by keeping premiums artificially low over the past several years. There is no crisis with rising worksafe premiums. The Ombud questions what we are saying about of our value as a society when we try to balance corporate profits against the full protection of injured workers.
For information, contact
President, New Brunswick Federation of Labour
(506) 857-2125 (work) / (506) 381-8969 (cell)