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Stop Politicizing WCB

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The NDP government, whoever ends up running it, should not tamper with the Worker’s Compensation Board’s approach to setting employer premiums. If it does, it risks transforming a system of risk-adjusted insurance premiums to just another form of one-size-fits-all payroll tax.

It comes as no surprise that Selinger, down in the polls and in disarray, is headed to rewarding his close union friends with yet another labour-leaning change to the WCB.  But, will the change be in the interests of all workers? Unfortunately, bending yet again to the narrow interests of organized labour will end up costing jobs and economic growth.

Public sector union leadership and the NDP support each other even while rank-and-file union members become increasingly disenchanted by NDP policies. While globalization has weakened the power of private sector unions, with multi-plant employers having no need to cower over the diminished risk of strikes, public sector unions remain strong, operating in unreformed, old-style government monopolies. Teachers, nurses, the MGEU and CUPE can still evoke anxiety in the minds of their NDP brothers and sisters, particularly when an election is in the wind.

While the vast majority of the unionized civil service in Manitoba go into work everyday not to curry political favours but to do great work for great work’s sake, the same cannot be said about union bosses. There’s an understanding between the NDP and labour leadership to satisfy the union bosses and expect the favour to be returned (donations, media buys, campaign workers, candidates). The MGEU provided Doer, CUPE, Kostyra: a Premier and a Finance Minister. Does this symbiotic relationship involve a conflict of interest? You betcha!

It is no coincidence that the drift to ever-bigger government throughout the NDP’s 15-year reign has occurred during a time when Manitoba has yet to see a major private sector employer arrive. Rather, the province has seen a succession of major private sector job losses — closures, downsizing, transfers of work to other jurisdictions.

So, it is unwise to play with the WCB’s employer assessment system, a sound approach which a dying Selinger government is preparing to trash. The current system provides an incentive for employers to pay attention to safe working conditions, not to suppress claims.

Better, let’s have a comprehensive review of the current out-dated approach to compensating and rehabilitating injured workers, perhaps towards a model of jointly-funded employee-employer 24-hour accident and illness insurance. It would provide insurance whether disability was due to work or not.

And, while claim suppression (the union bosses’s argument for change) may, rarely, occur, the penalties are significant enough to promote good behaviour. Who promotes claim suppression?

The current approach provides lower premiums for employers when accidents decrease. Lower premiums help employers succeed while investing in safe workplaces. Pro-active positive measures that produce lower employer assessments are in the interest of both employers and employees. An incentive approach promoting safety has long been adopted by private insurers, and MPI.

The NDP consistently favours organized labour. But, it is in the best interest of all workers, employers and the economy if Selinger’s crew keeps their clumsy thumbs off a balanced, sustainable win-win WCB assessment model.

Again, what is needed is a truly independent review of a long-outdated and inefficient program, one where duplication, inefficiency and favours by government rules. With union-biased Greg Selinger “up the creek without a paddle,” let’s hope it ends his move to a more political and less sustainable system.


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