Organized Labour in the province wants
injured workers to get more money. Labour leaders say the workers compensation
system is too strict and should pay out more.
The N.B. Federation of Labour unveiled a new video at its
annual meeting in Saint John Tuesday. It's part of a campaign to change the
Occupational Health and Safety Act. The federation says the system has become
unfair to workers and now benefits mostly the employer.
Workers compensation was originally designed as a no fault
insurance plan. Workers gave up their right to sue employers in return for
protection against loss of income because of an on the job injury. Labour
lawyer Jim Stanley says that was the original deal.
"That deal, I think, now is being changed significantly,
without people really coming to grips with what was the traditional arrangement
here. What was the understanding? Because at the end of the day employers are
going to have to come to grips with something. In my opinion, workers
compensation is the cheapest liability insurance in the country. It doesn't get
any cheaper," he says.
The McKenna Liberals brought in changes that reduced and,
in some cases, cut off benefits altogether. The Liberals said workers were
abusing the system. Federation president Blair Doucet says any abuse was
"For every person who abuses the system, there's a
thousand more being abused by the system," he says.
The federation wants benefits increased but the CEO of the
Workers Compensation Board, Doug Stanley, says any changes will have to come
"The board has a responsibility for making
recommendations to the government on legislation in the area of occupational
health and safety and workers compensation, but it's up to the board to decide
whether or not they are going to support those changes," says Stanley.
The Federation of Labour believes the Compensation Board
can easily afford to increase benefits. Since 1993 its income has exceeded
expenses by more than $146 million.