The BC NDP government is looking to make positive changes to WCB
To increase the confidence of workers and employers, the British Columbia government will undertake a formal review of its workers’ compensation system with the appointment of retired labour lawyer Janet Patterson.
To shift the workers’ compensation system to become more worker centred, the review will assess:
- the system’s policies and practices that support injured workers’ return to work;
- WorkSafeBC’s current policies and practices through a gender- and diversity-based analysis (commonly referred to as GBA+);
- modernization of WorkSafeBC’s culture to reflect a worker-centric service delivery model;
- the case management of injured workers; and
- any potential amendments to the Workers Compensation Act arising from this focused review.
Now that we have an NDP government, our hopes are up that we will see some movement to a fairer system for injured workers. We witnessed the significant changes made by the NDP in the 1990’s. Then, were devastated to watch what the Liberals did to injured workers from 2001 on.
It seems like a good time to cast an eye back over the dismantling of the compensation system over the last 17 years, to remind us just how bad the system is and why we need to pressure the NDP to undo the misery and heartlessness of the last two decades. Certainly, Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark didn’t give two hoots about the suffering of workers injured on the job. We continue to believe that the NDP do, and that they will give us the changes we need to ensure a fair system that protects injured workers.
So, here’s a review of just a few of the many, many changes that have been inflicted on the Workers’ Compensation system since 2001:
|NDP Government Era||Liberal Government Changes|
|Pensions: For life||Until age 65 (unless you can make a case for a later date, which is not easy.)|
|Pensions: workers got the larger of a permanent functional impairment award (PFI) or loss of earnings (top-up to match actual earning loss.)||PFI in almost all cases. Very difficult to get a loss of earnings pension. The WCB has decided that a loss of 25% of your income is insignificant; your loss has to be more than 25% before they will consider topping up and even then, there are huge hurdles to getting a fair pension.|
|Benefits: 75% of gross. Indexed to cost of living.||Reduced to 90% of net (effectively a 13% reduction). Indexed to 1% BELOW the cost of living to a maximum of 4% regardless of inflation rate, so that the most disabled workers, living on their WCB pensions are dropping at least 1% below the cost of living every year.|
|Benefits: case managers had greater discretion to adjust wage rate to take factors like prior illness, change of jobs etc. into account.||Restrictions on the manner of determining a worker’s wage rate, primarily to earnings in the 12 months prior to injury instead of a flexible or discretionary method; permanent wage rate fixed early in the term, leaving injured workers stuck with incorrect wage rates later on. There is no longer a pension wage rate decision which takes a worker’s probable future earnings into account.|
|Vocational Rehabilitation: vocational rehabilitation consultants had broad discretion to assist injured workers to get back to work.||Severely limited discretion of vocational rehabilitation consultants. Extremely limited assistance available compared to pre-2002.|
|Return to Work: your own doctor used to have a say in whether you returned to work.||Very little weight given to doctor’s opinion now. The employer just has to provide a list of jobs that they say are appropriate. If the doctor disagrees, the board can override her, and usually does. Emphasis now is always on returning to “modified duties” even if your doctor thinks they are inappropriate.|
|Chronic Pain: discretion to grant a pension for chronic pain based on the degree of pain suffered by the worker. While the Board usually set it low, it could be set much higher on appeal.||Fixed rate of 2.5% no matter how great the pain, and that’s if you even qualify. A new format makes it harder to get.|
|Appeals: the NDP had simplified the appeal process, trying to provide an understandable system that answered all workers’ issues.||Appeal processes have become increasingly technical, legalistic, difficult to understand and inaccessible to injured workers;|
|Appeals: three levels of appeal with the final one being a medical appeal with three doctors NOT employed by the WCB (the Medical Review Panel or MRP). 80% of appeals were allowed by the MRP because the doctors made medical decisions based on medical knowledge and not WCB policy.||Liberals abolished the Medical Review Panel completely. Now there is no medical appeal level and if you can't afford a medical/legal opinion from an independent specialist (or are lucky enough to have a union who will pay for one), you have to rely on the WCB doctor’s opinion (a doctor who has never examined or even spoken to you.) The Vice- chairs of the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal are not medically trained. A Vice- chair can choose to seek an independent health professional opinion, but they are quite rare, you can't make them do it, and they are not obliged to take the advice of the specialist when they get it.|
|Missing Deadlines: The Workers' Compensation system is extremely complicated and technical. People often miss deadlines to file appeals because they are not used to dealing with bureaucracy, or they are in crisis because of their injury or occupational disease. The old system was more lenient for those who missed filing deadlines. In particular, if a worker asked his union representative or other advocate to represent him, and that person missed a deadline, the old Workers' Compensation Review Board understood that it was not the worker’s fault if someone else slipped up. An extension of time was usually granted if it was not the worker’s fault.||Nowadays, it is very difficult to get an extension of time, even if you made every effort to get your appeal in on time, and it was your representative who made the mistake and missed the deadline. The Review Division imposes a heavy burden on the injured worker to monitor what the representative is doing. This is not sensible when the worker has no idea what the compensation system requires and has given it to someone who is supposed to know what to do. It's just another way to keep injured workers from exercising their rights.|
|Power of Appeal Tribunals: if WCB policy seemed to contradict the Workers' Compensation Act, the appellate tribunal could fix it.||The final level of appeal, the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT), now is bound by board policy, which is not law, but guidelines written by WCB employees to help implement the Act. (There is one way to challenge the policy, but the process virtually guarantees that the policy will not be overturned.)|
|Reconsideration: if you got new medical evidence or more facts came to light, you could ask the WCB to reconsider a decision to deny your claim, which they often did when they had more information.||You can ask for reconsideration for 75 days. If a decision is not made within that time, there is no power to reconsider no matter what evidence you have AND if you have filed an appeal to the Review Division, you a barred from a reconsideration in any event.|
|Psychological Injuries: Were adjudicated much as any other kind of injury.||In 2012 the Liberals inserted a requirement into the Workers' Compensation Act that created a new test solely for mental stress injuries. It allowed the WCB to look into an injured worker’s entire life, digging for personal problems that they could blame the mental stress injuries on. A worker with a work-related psychological condition can now be subjected to the most invasive probing into their private life by the WCB’s team of “special constables” hired for that purpose. This test was a completely new concept in the Workers' Compensation system in BC. Psychologically fragile workers can find it intolerable.|
|Interest: workers and employers who won their appeals got interest on the money owed to them.||One of the very first things the Liberals did was to take interest away from workers. Not employers, they still get interest. But an injured worker who has had to go without any income for years while appealing his or her claim, gets no interest (except for one narrow exception which virtually no one qualifies for.) Interest for employers only!|
Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark were perfectly happy to see BC’s most injured workers fall further and further behind the cost of living every year. Their agenda was always clear, “Save employers money.” The cost to injured workers has been appalling.
We encourage you to talk to, write or email NDP MLAs. Remind them about what the Liberals have done to our injured and sick Brothers and Sisters. This is the first time we have had any hope in 17 years. Urge them to make it right.
National Day of Mourning – April 28
Held annually in Canada on April 28th, the National Day of Mourning is dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives, or suffered injury or illness on the job due to a work-related incident.
At the 1984 Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress a resolution was adopted declaring April 28th as a “National Day of Mourning” to honor those workers in Canada who have been killed, injured or disabled on the job, or who suffer from occupational diseases. The date of April 28th was chosen to reflect the anniversary of the day Ontario passed the Workers’ Compensation Act in 1914.
The Canadian labour movement lobbied for legislation to identify April 28th as a “National Day of Mourning.” Their efforts were rewarded in February 1991, when the Federal Parliament passed the “Workers Mourning Day Act” (Bill C-223) and recognized April 28th as a day of national observance.
On April 28th, the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half-mast. Workers will light candles, display ribbons and wreaths will be laid at the foot of monuments as a moment of silence is observed.
This movement grew as labour organizations around the world adopted April 28th as a “Day of Mourning.” Today more than 100 other countries have also adopted the observance known widely as Workers’ Memorial Day. The day is acknowledged by the International Labour Organization, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the American Federation of Labour.
The labour movement was created by people standing up together for fair wages and benefits, safe workplaces, decent work hours and family-friendly policies. When unions stand up for fairness, they improve our communities and the lives of all Canadians. Many of the conditions first won by unions are enjoyed by all workers today; minimum wages, overtime pay, workplace safety standards, maternity and parental leave, vacation pay, and protection from discrimination and harassment.
Promoting human rights and ending discrimination are key components of Canada’s unions working together to help remove those barriers. Canadian workers have the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to be informed about hazards in the workplace, along with leading efforts to improve pensions for all Canadians through the expansion of public pensions and negotiating workplace pensions. When they retire, the incomes earned from years of contributions into pension plans provide income security, health, drug and survivor benefits which means fewer seniors having to rely on their families or social programs for assistance.
Last year, 131 workers in British Columbia died from a workplace injury or disease. As workers, families, employers, and communities come together at ceremonies held around the province to remember those who have lost their lives to work-related incidents or occupational disease, let’s show our support to creating healthier and safer workplaces by attending these ceremonies or light your own candle in honour and reflection of the thousands of lives forever changed and to renew your commitment to workplace health and safety.
The April 28th Monuments are often inscribed with the words “Fight for the Living, Mourn for the Dead” It is a day to honour the dead, but also a day that reminds us of the need to protect the living.
There will be Day of Mourning ceremonies all across Canada, here in British Columbia you can learn the details about ceremonies and place a flower in dedication of a worker at dayofmourning.bc.ca
Apprenticeship and Trade Advancement
Lodge 359 has been working closely with the ITA (Industry Training Authority) and the Federal Government, recently finalizing the Pan Canadian Harmonization program. One change that took place as part of the Harmonization program for British Columbia is that the trade name will now be identified using the Red Seal name only, Construction Boilermaker becomes Boilermaker.
Work-based training hour requirements for the new program has decreased by 750 hours (old program requires 5700 hours; the new program requires 4950 hours). These changes are mandated through the Pan Canadian Harmonization program and implemented through the ITA.
The newly developed Boilermaker SLE Level 2 exam was recently piloted with a class at BCIT. The ITA exam maintenance officer is compiling feedback from the students. The Boilermakers also attended the item bank workshop following the pilot to conduct a peer review of the exam.
The Boilermakers also attended a two day editing workshop on the Boilermaker Manual this included updating and editing of the Boilermaker manual, clean up of diagrams and text.
In February, Dave French and I travelled to Site C for a site visit. We stayed in camp during our visit and found the accommodations very clean and well kept. The rooms are all executive rooms with their own washroom within the room and a double bed. There are also recreation facilities and a gymnasium on site. While on site we a taught a Scissor Lift and Aerial Platform training course for members working for Group LAR.
Boilermaker Foundation Course is being held from March 26th through August 31st at BCIT
Boilermaker Level 02 course was held from Jan. 7th through Feb.8th at BCIT.
Boilermaker Level 03 course was held from Feb. 14th through March 22nd at BCIT.
BM 01 is Foundation, BM 02 is Level 2 Upgrade, BM 03 is Level 3 Upgrade, BM 04 is Level 4 Refresher Course, BM IP is Boilermaker Inter-Provincial Red Seal.
|Training Levels||0-1000 |
|BM - 01||1||3||0||0||0||0||4|
|BM - 02||3||9||1||1||1||0||15|
|BM - 03||2||7||10||5||3||0||27|
|BM - 04||0||0||0||0||1||0||1|
|BM - IP||1||5||5||4||5||0||20|
The month of March kicked off our 2019 shutdown season. Harmac in Nanaimo employed 200 Boilermakers between 2 contractors, CIMS and FMI. Intercon and Husky in Prince George employed 125 Boilermakers between 3 contractors, CIMS, FARR and TVE. We also had a hand full of emergencies which included Howe Sound, Powell River, Northwood and Mackenzie. There also was a small crew for Geo Tech working at Catalyst in Crofton. The John Hart Dam in Campbell River employed another 10 Boilermakers. By the last week of March we had exhausted all of our members and had to reach out to our sister locals for Travel Cards, Retirees and Permits.
The Site ‘C’ Penstock Job with Groupe LAR also started hiring starting with a small crew of Boilermakers on March 25th, LAR should be hiring again soon. Exact manpower numbers have not been disclosed as of yet.
Looking toward the end of April we have a small shutdown in Port Alberni for CIMS with a crew of 14 beginning April 24th for the prep, the shutdown set to go the 29th of April.
CIMS and TVE have also put in orders for a larger shutdown in Quesnel. The prep will start May 1st with a crew of 30. The shutdown which starts on May 5th will most likely empty the out of work lists. We may find ourselves looking for Travel Cards, Retired Members and Permits to fill the Quesnel order, please listen to the nightly tape.