Leaders push for stronger, broader workers’ compensation system

James
James McLeod
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Nurses’ union president Debbie Forward speaks at the statutory review of the workers’ compensation system in St. John’s Tuesday morning. Forward was pushing for tweaks to the system, and more money for injured workers. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Workers’ compensation advocates were out in full force Tuesday, pressing a government-appointed panel on ways to expand and tweak the system for people injured on the job.

Newfoundland and Lab­rador Nurses’ Union president Debbie Forward said that one of the major issues within her union is that the workers’ compensation system just doesn’t pay enough when a nurse is injured on the job.

“We are so far behind the rest of the country that when you really look at the numbers, it gets to be quite embarrassing in some ways,” she said. “For a registered nurse who’s on the top scale — which are the majority of our members — if that individual is off on workers’ compensation, they will receive approximately 50 per cent of their salary when they’re off on workers’ compensation.”

The workers’ compensation statutory review panel is struck every five years to review legislation and regulations around the system and to make recommendations to improve things.

On Monday, at the start of the three-day consultation session in St. John’s, the statutory review panel heard from a series of employers’ groups calling on the government to make workers’ compensation rules more strict. On Tuesday, labour groups, politicians and individuals presented a different picture.

Presenters painted a picture of a system giving injured workers low payments, with long delays and an arbitration system that leaves workers vulnerable to having their benefits cut off.

Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union president Earle McCurdy, speaking about his own industry, dismissed employers’ concerns, saying they’re just focused on the bottom line.

“All I’ve heard from them is, how do we crack down on claimants and cut down on costs?” McCurdy said. “To be blunt about it, if they spent half as much time promoting healthy and safe practices in the workplace as they do fighting compensation claims by their employees, we’d have a safer industry.”

Nancy MacLean, speaking for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said one of the problems it runs into is that many workers don’t know what their rights are, and what they’re legally required to do when they’re injured on the job.

“It’s extremely common. People don’t know what their legal responsibility is when it comes to filing or (reporting) injury in the workplace,” she said.

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons also had some issues when it comes to legal requirements.

He said one of the biggest complaints he hears is that the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission, which runs the system, is breaking the law.

The legislation says that if an injured worker applies for a formal review of their case, they should get a decision from the review commissioner within 60 days.

“That’s not being followed. I’ve got more than one constituent that is still waiting at least eight months to have their matter dealt with,” Parsons said. “They’re breaking their own legislation.”

New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael also presented to the statutory review panel Tuesday, and she had complaints about the review process too. She said by the time an injured worker gets to that point, they’re entering into what’s almost like a court process, but they usually can’t hire a lawyer to represent them.

“Everything is on the line for them, and they’re usually living in very dire straits by this time,” she said. “They’re coming to their MHA because they feel desperate.”

The statutory review continues at the Ramada Hotel in St. John’s today.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

 

Organizations: Public Service Alliance of Canada, Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission, Ramada Hotel

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • thiagorulez
    January 08, 2014 - 15:17

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm always glad to hear about and remember those times when leaders seem to working for us instead of trying to scam us. Thiago | http://www.workcompmn.com

  • Robert
    April 03, 2013 - 14:19

    A word of advise to all who might even consider accepting Workers Comp benefits! There is another way. 1st DO NOT sign anything! 2nd consult with a lawyer. 3rd we still live in a country where a judge has the final decision. And never forget DO NOT sign anything!

  • jockoontherocko
    April 03, 2013 - 11:57

    Tax Free? How ignorant can you be? Yes Workers Comp is tax free but let me fill you in on the rest that you conveiniently don't know or forgot. First of all I am one of those people. I lost a lucrative career that I worked in for 23 years. Workers is not the winfall you all seem to think it is. Nor is it easy to get. Yes there are a few who may scam the system but they are the small minority. Let me start by telling you that there is a cap on how much you can recieve from Workers. It's $49,000. Then you only get 80% of your gross income. I was making a good salary at the time of my injury, better than most I'd say and I am not close to that cap. Then you apply for you CPP disability to find that 75% of it is clawed back from your Workers. Then allow for all future salary lost. In my case it would be in the hundreds of thousands for the 10 years I have been off work. So far it's not adding up to the winfall you all seem to think we get. Now add in the fact I have just lost my career and I cannot do any of the things I used to do. I cannot walk very far, I cannot do any outdoor activities like I used to. No hunting, no snowmobiling, no trips to the cabin etc. I cannot even have a dance with my wife. There were times I thought I would just find a high cliff and jump off. That's how horrible it is. Add to all this the stress of the first two and half years wondering how I was going to pay my bills? Wondering what workers was going to do to me, would they cut me off? Would they put me on long term disabilty? All the while suffering like no animal as ever suffered. Yeah we got it made. Tax free money? So before you make ignorant comments and judge others on rumours and half truths and outright lies think about it. Walk a few feet in my shoes and you will find out it's no walk in the park. Most of you people are only a slip or fall from near bankruptcy and a life altering experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Yeah we got it made with all that tax free money.

  • Eileen
    April 03, 2013 - 09:02

    work in a nursing home and I am sick and tired of co-workers going off on workers for no good reason. One was off 2 years, but could still make the grenfell coats and sell them at craft sales. Seems to me sitting behind a sewing machine for 8 hrs a days would be just as hard on the back as working as a ward clerk. The problem is it is tac free and many people have insurance on therir mortgages and car payments( visa and master card as well) so if you are off on workers your payments are made by the insurance. So some of them make more money on workers then before the so called injury.

    • harlee
      April 03, 2013 - 10:42

      In response to Eileen! It is people like you that make it worse for injured workers. I went from making $70,000 to 24,000 a year on Workers Comp! No insurance to cover the bills. Do you know how much pain this lady could be in! If society had its way all injured workers would have to stay in bed and rust away! Unless you have been through the system you should not make comments. Believe me you do not get Workers Comp unless they put you through the ringer and back!

  • winston Roberts
    April 03, 2013 - 08:52

    Workers Compensation Boards treat everbody as fraudulent. The politicians have given them the power to destroy injured workers and their families with impunity.Not all permanently injured workers are frauds but the Boards will use every trick in the book that they can think of to kick them off the system. Its comparable to wrongful conviction and it must be stopped. Justice where justice is due, only.

  • Tax free
    April 03, 2013 - 06:58

    One thing everyone should keep in mind when considering whether WCB payments to claimants are fair or not. WCB income is totally tax free....there is a deduction on the tax return that completely removes WCB income from taxable income. This can have a big impact on the money one actually gets to keep and should be considered before any increase to WCB payments are made. If the pot becomes too sweet, it becomes a disincentive for an injured person to get better and get back to work. The vast majority of injuries are soft tissue injuries and most people have the ability to get better from these with the right treatments and motivation.

    • Chantal
      April 03, 2013 - 08:04

      Perhaps a daily whipping would provide an incentive to "get better."

    • msjma
      April 05, 2013 - 00:16

      Ms taxfree u r so full of it u have to work for one of the insurance companies or part of the movement against employees. I would much rather have the right to sue in front if a jury and take my full pay and pay taxes than to allow these criminals in the insurance industry that is tied into the justice system and controlled by criminal workmens comp association and the insurace commission And the chamber of commerece. You cant brain wash people knto your lie that it was meant to deter people from returning to there job. It is people like u working with the insurance co and the employer preventing employees from returning to work with your managerial games. You r what is wrong with this country how bout taking a nice long vacation with a watersnake.

  • grant
    April 03, 2013 - 06:44

    I know a man who worked for 30 years without a day off work because of injury. He fell one day at work and broke his leg, so instead of reporting it on the job, he crawled to his car after work to avoid using workmans. that happens to thousands of workers. Workers shouldnt have to resort to that. Workmans have a poor reputation. you could starve to death before you get a claim approved.