B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)

Employer groups drop out of WorkSafeBC review in protest

NDP government’s reviewer ‘biased, exceeding mandate’

The B.C. government’s latest review of WorkSafeBC policies and payouts has taken a left turn toward recommendations made by organized labour a decade ago, B.C.’s large business organizations say.

Employer groups including the Business Council of B.C., the B.C. Construction Association and the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association wrote to retired labour lawyer Janet Patterson, the head of the B.C. government’s review Wednesday. They said the “selected issues” chosen by Patterson for review exceed the mandate they were expecting and match closely with her report 10 years ago commissioned by the B.C. Federation of Labour.

“The employer community is quite taken aback and dismayed with the extremely broad and far-reaching scope of these ‘selected issues,’ and after giving the matter due consideration and consulting with various representatives of the employer community, we have determined that we have no choice but to cease all participation in the review’s process, effective immediately,” wrote Doug Alley of the Employers’ Forum, representing the 46 business groups.

After the review was announced this spring, Labour Minister Harry Bains assured the Council of Construction Associations in June that it was narrow and focused on improving worker navigation of injury claims and improve performance, “not to make wholesale changes to the workers’ compensation system” that employers fund, the letter states.

But a memo to employers last week listing the “selected issues” shows that they were contained in a 2009 report co-authored by Patterson entitled “Adding Insult to Injury.” The B.C. Federation of Labour’s submission to the current review in July called for the 2009 report to be considered.

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“We were willing to participate in a balanced an impartial process to review the system,” Richard Truscott, B.C. and Alberta vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement Wednesday. “However, the writing has been on the wall from the very beginning that the review lacked objectivity.”

The 46 employer organizations made their own initial submission to Patterson in July, questioning terms such as “gender-based analysis” and moving to a “worker-centric delivery model” that were not clearly defined.

WorkSafeBC is responsible for 45,000 sick or injured workers and more than 4,000 spouses and children who depend on pension payments. It administers an insurance system paid into by 238,000 B.C. employers, where workers give up their right to sue employers for negligence in exchange for no-fault compensation that is independently administered.

Reviewing WorkSafeBC was one of the terms of the B.C. Green Party agreement to support the minority NDP government in 2017.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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