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November 22 2007

Time to change WHSCC to help workers, says CUPE

CUPE New Brunswick has told the WHSCC Independent Review Panel that it's time to change the WHSCC and workers compensation system to help the workers, after years of an imbalance towards employers. Benefits, claims and prevention are the areas that need the most attention.

Presentations were made by representatives of CUPE New Brunswick at the recent public meetings of the Independent Review Panel looking into the operation of the WHSCC.

At the Fredericton public meetings on November 6, presentations were made by Norma Robinson, President of the N.B. Council of Hospital Unions, Local 1252, and Rosanne Carter, of CUPE Local 908.  At the Saint John meetings, a presentation was made by CUPE N.B. Secretary-Treasurer Rick MacMillan.

Many other locals of CUPE made presentations at the public meetings, supporting the position of the New Brunswick of Federation of Labour and CUPE New Brunswick.

CUPE New Brunswick's brief pointed out that even though employment has increased, the number of WCB claims has decreased since changes made to the compensation and occupational health system in 1993.  Even more alarming is the decrease in the number of successful workers' compensation claims, down from 31.6% of claims in 1989 to 17.4% in 2005.

"Claims are down not because of safer workplaces, but because people are not reporting injuries and are being denied benefits," said Rick MacMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE New Brunswick.  "The change to the definition of 'accident' makes it more difficult to have an injury covered by WCB.  And those who do report them are being improperly rejected -- more claims are rejected in New Brunswick than anywhere else in Canada," he added.

Another reason fewer accidents are reported is because of the penalty resulting from the three-day waiting period.  "If you are hurt at work and are off the job for three weeks, you suffer a 20% loss of pay.  It's bad enough that someone suffers pain and suffering in an injury, and they should not suffer a financial loss, too", said MacMillan. 

"Public sector workplaces are not as safe as many people might think, and they are suffering from a lack of enforcement of health and safety laws.  Based on the WHSCC's own figures, it's more dangerous to work in a nursing home than to work in a slaughter house or a heavy metal mine," he noted.

CUPE New Brunswick brief also calls for reinstatement of the Occupational Health and Safety Commission. "We need a commission that will focus only on prevention of accidents and updating the regulations," noted the brief.

Brief to the WHSCC Independent Review Panel