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April 29, 2007
Compensation not fail-proof: labour leader
"It's become an insurance policy for employers against
being sued by their employees or their families for criminal negligence,"
Lana Haight, The StarPhoenix
The workers' compensation system in place since the early
1900s isn't the failproof safety net it was intended to be, says one labour
"It's become an insurance policy for employers against being
sued by their employees or their families for criminal negligence," said Larry
Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
When a worker is injured on a job site, compensation
administered by the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board kicks in. The
agency pays for medical treatment of the injuries incurred at work and for
retraining. It also provides income replacement.
The compensation system is a mixed blessing, says University
of Saskatchewan law Prof. Beth Bilson. Workers who are off the job for a short
period of time are guaranteed replacement wages during their recovery. Bilson
says to have to go to court to recoup those wages would be costly and
time-consuming, and many people would not be able to afford the legal fees.
But workers who are permanently disabled often have a
"Individuals who find themselves in that situation are
doomed to a life of perpetual poverty," said Hubich.
Workers' compensation only guarantees wages comparable to
those at the time of injury and while the benefits are indexed, they do not
reflect potential loss of future earnings. This is especially difficult for
young people injured on the job, he says.
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