On the morning of April 28, I attended a ceremony at the Langley Township Hall, to remember those workers who have been injured or killed on the job. Included in the many people who attended this ceremony, I saw municipal politicians, community members, and even provincial political candidates.
The Liberal incumbent MLAs, Mary Polak and Rich Coleman, were not there.
Our absent MLAs may have had other engagements, or perhaps they consider discretion the better part of valour. Maybe they had the good grace to be ashamed of the devastating effect that their 2002 legislative changes to the WCB compensation system have had on the injured workers in our province.
Certainly, there would be no plaudits for the Liberals from today's audience who have seen insult added to injury:
- appeal processes that have become increasingly technical, difficult to understand and inaccessible to injured workers
- functional pensions are now payable only to age 65 rather than payable for life;
- benefit rates have been reduced from 75% of gross income to 90% of net income, resulting in a net reduction of 13%;
- restrictions on the manner of determining a worker's wage rate, primarily to earnings in a 12-month period prior to injury, instead of a flexible or discretionary method;
- significant new restrictions on compensation for verified psychological injuries;
- restrictions on compensation for permanent chronic pain and similar conditions;
- inadequacy of functional pensions as they are based on an outdated Permanent Disability Evaluation Schedule (PDES) and no review of the PDES schedule has been undertaken;
- restriction of the Board's remedial jurisdiction, i.e. no ability to review and re-adjudicate prior decisions even if erroneous or to reopen claims where changed circumstances exist.
And, the most extreme consequences are:
- effective elimination of loss of earnings pensions and
- the virtual elimination of vocational rehabilitation services.
These facts were prepared by a team of lawyers for a report, which they entitled "Insult to Injury." Our Liberal government has been responsible for these changes - changes that have had a profoundly negative economic impact on thousands of permanently injured workers.
Families and employers are under the impression that the WCB premiums they pay actually offer some kind of protection, but sadly, that protection is almost non-existent. When will British Columbians have had enough? I think the resounding answer to that question will come on May 12, 2009.
Kathleen Stephany, New Democratic Candidate for Langley