Employers’ council calls for workers’ comp changes

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, outlined the council’s problems with the provincial workers’ compensation system. — Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram

With public consultations on workers’ compensation set to begin next week, the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council is calling for major changes to provincial legislation.

Richard Alexander, executive director of the council, outlined the organization’s major problems with the system at a news conference Thursday morning at the Capital Hotel, touching on its cost  and the average length of claims in the province.

“Workers’ compensation is an important system, but in Newfoundland and Labrador, unfortunately, the cost of running the system is excessive,” he said, saying it’s the most expensive program in the country because it covers 98 per cent of the workforce, rather than the national average of about 82 per cent. “If you have the most extensive system, you will also have the most expensive system, unless you have the most aggressive legislation, and we do not have aggressive legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador when it comes to workers’ compensation, and that’s what we need. We need new legislation.”

Premiums in this province have ranged between 33 per cent and 89 per cent higher than the national average for the past two decades, said Alexander, laying out three major problems the council has with the system:

‰ Too much political influence in the system. Alexander said the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission lacks the required independence from government to operate efficiently.

‰ Newfoundland and Labrador has the longest average claim duration in the country by far. The length of time it takes someone to return from work after an injury is 122 days, more than three weeks longer than the second-place province, Nova Scotia (98 days), and nearly twice the national average of 65 days.

‰ Compensation benefits for seasonal workers aren’t fair to year-round workers. Alexander said provincial legislation allows for seasonal workers to receive benefits at a rate based on their pay when they’re at work, even during the off-season. “In fairness to all workers, seasonal workers should not be better off financially on workers’ compensation than if the injury had not occurred.”

Derek Butler, the executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers, said the province’s current system is unsustainable. “We don’t have the money in the bank to cover the cost going forward for injuries. That could impact on workers in the future, just like the provincial government now has to rejig and look at its budget and reduce costs. Down the road, as our workforce contracts, we could be in a position where we say, ‘Look, workers’ comp isn’t working. We’ve got to deny benefits.’ The trick now is to make the system viable.”

Sharon Horan, vice-chairwoman of the board of trade and CEO of Fit For Work, which prepares injured workers to return to the workforce, said despite a significant reduction in the injury rate over the last decade, the duration of claim is still too long.

“This isn’t about impacting negatively premiums for injured workers,” she said. “We cannot sustain this system if we continue at the duration rate we’re having.”

Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, said the employers’ council’s problems with the system are rooted in an erroneous assumption that workers are abusing the system.

“There are all kinds of checks and balances in the system — if someone is better, they go back to work. You have to have a doctor’s note to be still off. I don’t know where they’re getting at this, as if people determine themselves that they’re going to continue to be out of the workplace,” she said. “I just find it so friggin’ offensive that someone gets injured in a workplace, and it becomes the worker’s fault. It’s incredible to me that they keep insisting that the problem is with a worker who’s been injured in their workplaces, rather than maybe we should be doing something to make our workplaces safer to start with.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Employers, Capital Hotel, Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission Association of Seafood Producers Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • HANKEY
    February 24, 2013 - 05:17

    I know what Mr. Butler is saying about what it cost to carry Workers Comp, When i bid a contract a letter of good standing with Workers Comp has to accompany the tender, To get a letter WCC would estimate what my labour cost would be then say they want a cheque for this amount to get a letter of good standing to accompany the tender, If you didn't get the tender you were out that money, But i also know what it is to be totally disabled in a work related accident and be subject to the lost of my regular income being replaced by WCC loss wages income, And getting $22. per week and go from owning everything you own to owing for everything you own, It is not every Co. that can ship material to another country to get processed most has to deal with the rules of this country, So what happens to a person injured on a job or work site, that has a new home or car to pay for and their kids in school? WCC was created to help those people injured on a work related accident, those people should be taken care of first by WCC that is why it was created The injured workers income should be the first thing that should be looked after to make sure the no fault insurance that the worker carried looks after their money problems related to a work related injury

  • Oh Yea
    February 22, 2013 - 14:39

    If you can't work 10-42 and take off the winters on others money than fake an injury and retire. The system needs to be changed to protect those that are actually hurt and deserve assistance - all of us know of the fakers that are just lazy and suck off the system. Newfoundland has the most expensive system and the largest percentage on assistance - based on population - in all of Canada. That says it all!

  • John
    February 22, 2013 - 13:20

    I am an employer and I fail to see the rationale behind Mr. Alexander's comments. He wants to lower the number of people eligible for workers comp because it covers too many. That would be fine if the exemption was lifted so that if a worker was injured he could sue the employer and most likely get significantly more from the company insurance policy resulting in higher insurance policy premiums or a difficulty in even getting insurance due to claims. You cannot have your cake and eat it too Mr. Alexander. You also begin with the premise that there are too many fraudulent cases on the books. I know some people on WC for legitimate reasons and believe me when I tell you that while there may be some the vast majority have to hop through hoops to get anything from SC. What really is the case here is that we have a much older demographic than most of the country and older workers can sometimes be more prone to injury or recover more slowly. You want lower rates then pay higher wages to attract younger people back, more healthy people will be in the system and the overage rate per hundred of salary will go down.

    • HANKEY
      February 27, 2013 - 23:38

      I WAS THE EMPLOYER I HAD TO CARRY WORKERS COM FOR ME AND MY EMPLOYEES , When I Got Broke Up IN An Auto Mobile Accident in the course of my employment, The third party auto policy insurance went broke, WCC Paid Me $22. per week for loss wages, The DR. said i was Totally Disable WCC said I could Be A parts Clerk, and paid me $22. per week For 12 years, I went from owning everything i owned to owing for everything i owned,

  • John
    February 22, 2013 - 11:55

    if you had an injury and had an operation that effect's you and your family for the rest of your life, you would not have such a negative outlook. After your taxes, Ei. cp is taken out you get 80% of your net which is about 42% you clear and if you are lucky you get cpp and then that is taken Of your whscc at 75% of your net. (WE ARE SOME LUCKY TO BEGETTING WHSCC).hahahahaha WHAT A JOKE, wake up employers, WHAT ABOUT YOUR TAX BREAKS AND I GUESS YOU RATHER GET SUED. ( SIGN LIFER)

  • Esteban
    February 22, 2013 - 11:43

    Really? How do you know? Doyou have any evidence or are you just shooting your mouth off?

  • Fed up
    February 22, 2013 - 11:20

    The shoe would be on the other foot if you found yourself on workers comp.and forced to live on less than half your working income due to an injury at work because, (and Lana Payne said it best), the workplace was not made safe enough. After giving your heart and soul to do the best job you could to job you love and then, through no fault of your own, but because the proper safety proceedures or techniques were not in place, you are injured. Try raising a family, as a single parent, paying the same bills as a working couple and then over night your income is drastically decreased with the same bills to pay. No injured worker is off work and enjoying it or "better off" than when they were working. You don't hear about the ones falling behind on payments or having to claim bankruptucy because of the wonderful benefits workers comp provides. You think all the premiums companies pay go to the injuried? Wake up. I think the whole system is broken. And if the shoe fits......

  • Fed up
    February 22, 2013 - 11:19

    The shoe would be on the other foot if you found yourself on workers comp.and forced to live on less than half your working income due to an injury at work because, (and Lana Payne said it best), the workplace was not made safe enough. After giving your heart and soul to do the best job you could to job you love and then, through no fault of your own, but because the proper safety proceedures or techniques were not in place, you are injured. Try raising a family, as a single parent, paying the same bills as a working couple and then over night your income is drastically decreased with the same bills to pay. No injured worker is off work and enjoying it or "better off" than when they were working. You don't hear about the ones falling behind on payments or having to claim bankruptucy because of the wonderful benefits workers comp provides. You think all the premiums companies pay go to the injuried? Wake up. I think the whole system is broken. And if the shoe fits......

  • saelcove
    February 22, 2013 - 10:26

    No where in is so easy to get workers comp as in newfoundland it,s laughable

  • saelcove
    February 22, 2013 - 10:24

    No where in is so easy to get workers comp as in newfoundland it,s laughable

  • darren
    February 22, 2013 - 09:20

    Here, here to Sir Richard Alexander!!! Butttttttttt, why is it that you want no government in WHSCC, but yet you call for government to makes changes to the Public Service Pension Plan and the CPP on the Federal Level??? If your argument is true with respect to the WHSCC (and I agree with it), then why should a government that pays nothing into either the PSPP or CPP get to make all kinds of decisions around benefits, possible cutbacks, allowing out of work fish harvesters and mill workers into the plan (who never paid a penny into it), rob from it when they want to and then complain that there's an unfunded liability; and the list goes on and on..... And before anyone jumps in - the only contribution made by government into the PSPP or CPP is with respect to what they legally have to pay in as an employer. My employer does not have a choice whether they make their remittances - why should the government. So, on the one hand Richard wants no involvement in WHSCC - but he also wants slash and burn with respect to pensions - moral of the story - as a business lobbiest - he wants everyone to be so poor that they have to work for minimum wage until they die..................

  • Shawn
    February 22, 2013 - 08:54

    Alexander is absolutely right and as J says, above, many small businesses are crushed by the cost of workers's comp - including mine. I think it was Bradley George who used to fight those guys with Alexander and it's about time others do, too. If not, we'll all be closing. as for Lana Payne, this is not about targeting workers. There won't be jobs for her workers if this isn't fixed. Go prepare for the public sector strike!

  • J
    February 22, 2013 - 07:48

    Lana Payne must have blinders on. As someone who grew up around the Bay and who's father had a small construction business it was the worker's comp payments that essentially forced him to close down and go to work elsewhere. And he didn't even have people hurt on his worksite. Hard to get people to work over the winter as well, people looking for layoffs in the fall and then come back looking for work in the spring while he built houses over the winter. Laziness is half the problem. The other half is motivation.

  • Corporate Psycho
    February 22, 2013 - 06:50

    Alexander is nothing but a union buster in a cheap suit.