B.C.’s largest business organizations are backing out of government’s latest review of WorkSafeBC because they have ‘lost confidence’.
In a letter to reviewer Janet Patterson, the 46 business organizations claim the review can no longer be conducted in an “independent, impartial and balanced matter.”
“The Employer Community is quite taken aback and dismayed with the extremely broad and far-reaching scope of these ‘selected issues,'” reads the letter.
“We have determined that we have no choice but to cease all participation in the Review’s process, effective immediately.”
The provincial government and Labour Minister Harry Bains announced Patterson’s appointment in April.
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The retired labour lawyer was directed to undertake a formal review of the workers’ compensation system in B.C., with the goal of increasing workers and employers’ confidence in the system, and to make it more worker-centred.
The review is expected to look at 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, the modernization of WorkSafeBC’s culture to reflect a worker-centric service delivery model and any potential amendments to the Workers Compensation Act arising from this focused review.
The report was expected to be submitted to government by September 30, 2019.
The employer groups backing away from the review include the BC Chamber of Commerce, BC Care Providers Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the British Columbia Hotel Association.
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The main concern from the employers’ groups was that the latest report closely matches the mandate of a report commissioned by the B.C. Federation of Labour a decade ago.
“In the 2009 report referenced by the BC Federation of Labour, the authors provided 24 recommendations and proposed amendments to WSBC,” the letter reads.
“Of those 24 recommendations, all but one are on Ms. Patterson’s 2019 “selected issues for further stakeholder consultation” list, developed latterly under her ongoing review, which is scheduled to report out on September 30, 2019.”
WorkSafe is responsible for 45,000 sick or injured workers and more than 4,000 spouses and children.
It also runs the insurance system paid into by 238,000 B.C. employers, where workers give up their right to sue employers for negligence in exchange for no-fault compensation.
Bains says the B.C. government is ‘committed to making long-overdue improvements’ to the workers’ compensation system.
“The consultation – which is ongoing until September 11th – allows for employers and all stakeholders to participate meaningfully in the review process,” Bains said.
“I remain confident Ms. Patterson has the ability to conduct the review in an impartial and balanced way. To improve the system it is important that everyone participates – I hope this group of employers re-engages with the review before the consultation period closes.”
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