Workers’ Compensation changes have hurt teachers
In 2003 the provincial government made changes to the Workers Compensation Act which resulted in diminished compensation to workers. Those changes included the elimination of lifetime disability pensions based on actual loss of earnings with reduced pensions based on outdated disability charts that end at age 65, the virtual elimination of the WCB’s vocational rehabilitation program that used to help injured workers return safely to the workplace, the replacement of three levels of external appeal with one internal WCB review and one external appeal, and a worsening “culture of denial” throughout the adjudicative and appellate processes.
The direct impact on BCTF members includes the following:
- increased costs to the BCTF’s Health and Wellness plan in providing the services of occupational therapists and rehabilitation consultants to members to ensure a safe return to the workplace
- increased costs to the BCTF’s Salary Indemnity plan to cover a worker’s gradual return to the workplace
- members working even though they have not fully recovered from their injuries
- members using more of their sick leave to “top-up” their salary because of lower WCB wage loss benefits
- members using their sick leave instead of filing a claim because they do not want to deal with the WCB process
Over the course of the next two months leading up to the provincial election part of the agenda for change should include a re-balancing of the workers’ compensation system.
In 2008, the attached paper and executive summary were prepared for the BCFed on the subject of the impact of the sweeping changes made to the workers’ compensation system by the B.C. Liberal government. The BCFed endorsed the recommendations in the attached report in 2008 and again this year.
The executive summary (16 pages) was handed out at the BCFed’s 2008 Convention. The authors summarize about 20 recommendations which are supported by information and examples. These 20 recommendations form the core of their recommended legislative changes to begin to restore the compensation system. In 2008, Roberta Ellis—the VP at the Workers’ Compensation Board, affirmed that the analysis was right and that the Board would continue in this way as this was the intent of the 2002/2003 legislative changes.
Over the last decade employers have saved hundreds of millions of dollars which should rightly have gone to injured workers. The candidates in the next provincial election need to hear the collective and individual voices of workers regarding the type of integrated change which is required if balance is to be restored to the workers’ compensation system. In particular, the Board's mandate to compensate and rehabilitate workers is an important public interest goal (as is safety) and should not be compromised on the basis of cost to employers alone. Employers receive legal immunity and help in safety practices. Workers should receive full compensation for injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment.
Please encourage members to speak up for full compensation for injured workers and a balanced workers’ compensation system. The BCTF has been granted permission by the writers of the attached paper to use any and all parts of it to advance the cause of obtaining full compensation for injured workers and a balanced workers’ compensation system.
Assistant Director—WCB Advocate
Income Security Division
British Columbia Teachers' Federation
ph. 604-871-1890, fax. 604-871-2285, firstname.lastname@example.org Toll free: 1-800-663-9163, local 1890