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WCB Punishes Employers

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The Workers Compensation Board leans left and does what the ideologically-driven NDP and its union bosses want. Recently, the WCB gutted its employer assessment model. This latest treat to the union bosses comes just before the next election. The NDP, fearing defeat, seek the help of the union bosses as the campaign revs up.

For decades the member unions of the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) have viewed the WCB as an organization they should control, This to serve as a demonstration that they can ‘deliver’ benefits for the rank and file. With globalization of industrial manufacturing, distribution and private sector services, the power of unions outside of the public sector has severely diminished, making union influence over the WCB even more important.

Under sustained pressure from the NDP and the MFL, the WCB has weakened the relationship between accident experience and employers’ annual premiums. Prior to the latest change, there was a wider range of premium levels charged between firms with low accident experience and those with higher claims. The wide range benefitted firms with good safety practices and low accident frequencies. Firms with poorer safety practices and high accident experiences paid premiums considerably higher than firms with better experience.

Now, with the changes made, firms with better accident records will pay more and those with the worst experience will pay less. The WCB explains that “(the change) will result in a rate increase for those employers that are at the very bottom (of rates for their industry)”. This, so firms at the top of their industry’s rates will gain.

Will the change benefit employers that practice very good safety practices and have a record of lower levels of accidents? No! Will the change benefit workers? How could it? Employers with higher accident frequencies will have a reduced incentive to practice better safety. Lower accident frequency employers will pay more than before, and have less money to improve safety, hire new workers and provide raises.

The MFL and, in particular, its public sector unions sought the change for years, but to no avail until now. The system that helped drive down accident frequency was put in place in 1990; the pre-1990 system – which the recent changes heads back towards – resulted in much higher accident levels. Recently, the MFL and its members undertook a campaign accusing employers of suppressing WCB claims. Those unsubstantiated claims served as their argument to change the system back to what they sought.

Manitoba employers have suffered from the WCB giving in to the union bosses and the NDP. Employers had already experienced a series of WCB moves increasing their costs while weakening the originally intended apolitical nature of the WCB. More and more government-directed costs paid through WCB premiums: extended and looser definitions of occupational diseases; higher and higher maximum insured wages; excess WCB financial reserves rather than rebates to employers: and, more and more industries dragged into the out-dated program.

To reduce squawking by employers over this recent change, the WCB will cut the average premium in 2016. This will mask what they have done. Will the WCB report profits in 2015 sufficient to pay for the reduction? How? Investment income must be way down. Expect to find out after the election.

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