Since 1997, Mike Travill has fought successfully on behalf of injured workers.
He has consistently challenged the authority of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, successfully arguing cases in court that changed the board’s payment policies.
This cost the board both money and credibility.
It hasn’t made Travill many friends.
In 2004, he successfully argued the Yukon Hospital Corp. collected money from the compensation board, and then paid his client only a portion of that money.
This practice had been going on for years, he said.
His client was paid in full.
That year, he also successfully argued before the Yukon Supreme Court that the compensation board was not following its own policies and should pay lump-sum payments to injured workers. Previously the board had been holding the money and earning interest off it.
In 2002, the board groused that claim costs were going up because Travill had a better than average success rate before the appeal tribunal. That year, he won 14 of 17 tribunal cases — an 82 per cent success rate.
He also argued the compensation board was lowballing the way it calculated benefits. He won that one too, changing board policy.
It’s a hell of a record.
In 2002, the government appointed Travill to the workers’ compensation act review panel.
In that position, he helped draft recommendations to update compensation laws. Those recommendations were handed to Minister Brad Cathers this year.
By those measures, and many others, he was a successful advocate.
He fought for his clients and usually won. And because of that, at times, he was probably a pain in the … neck.
During the 2006 territorial election, Travill was the Yukon Liberal Party’s campaign manager.
Since then, Justice officials have been probing his activities on the job.
In August, Justice officials conjured a management position above Travill, to oversee his activities.
It caused “profound concern” among the leadership of the Yukon Employee’s Union.
“We can only conclude that this is a personal attack against the current workers’ advocate, as well as an attempt to hamstring a strong and effective workers’ advocate office,” said union president Laurie Butterworth.
The government has now decided not to create that position.
And Travill has been suspended.
The series of events is deeply troubling.
Travill has been open about his dismissal. His employer has accused him of padding his hours, he said.
He denies the charge, saying he has a diary chronicling his hours.
Apparently, the government won’t accept that. Why?
The government hour-padding charge goes back five years, to 2002.
Curiously, in that time, none of Travill’s claims were challenged or questioned by his manager. That’s astounding, and calls into question management practices within Justice.
More troubling is that two weeks after Travill told investigators he had e-mails that corroborate his hours, the data vanished from his computer.
It wasn’t until his last payment claim was submitted that the government launched its probe.
At that time, Travill himself was on workers’ compensation and not at work. He did not have access to his computer prior to his suspension.
But, most troubling, in the last two years Travill has been fighting court battles for clients against his employer, the Justice department.
He won three of these cases.
One can assume that Justice officials are not happy about this.
One of the cases was due to go to the Appeal Court.
Now with Travill gone, the Justice department has taken over his clients’ files.
And that, too, is troubling. It could breach his clients’ privilege.
Of course, that is just one of the many disturbing elements in this situation.
The government won’t discuss it. It claims it is a personnel issue.
In this case, that is too convenient an excuse.
The government must justify its actions, or reinstate Travill.
If not, it sends the message that any employee that is politically active is a target.
It tells employees to keep their heads down and shut up.
Because if you stand up to this crew, you will find yourself out of work. (RM)