wcbs good news bad news day

We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board has a $3-million surplus.

We don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board has a $3-million surplus.

 “The fund is healthy and the board is happy with the direction we’re going,” said board chair Craig Tuton.

Alright then, we’re happy.

But the cost of running the board has skyrocketed.

It now has 72 employees.

And the cost of running the bureaucracy has increased to $7.2 million from $6.7 million in 2005.

As well, employer premiums, calculated on every $100 of payroll, have increased substantially.

“(Employers are) not happy because the rates are high and we at the board aren’t happy either,” said Tuton.

Uh, alright, we’re not happy either. We’re angry, dammit.

But the board is working with stakeholders to reduce workplace injury rates, said Tuton.

That’s the right direction to go, he added.

Good. That’s really good.

Reported workplace injuries now stand at more than 950 this year, according to the injury board.

And “not a single one a paper cut.”

One worker has been killed.

The number of injury reports are up 14 per cent from last year. And 2006 was the worst in 13 years.

However, not every report becomes a claim. And not every claim is paid out, note WCB officials, obviously soothing those who fear the erosion of the $3-million surplus and higher premiums.

“We expected the numbers to go up simply because people are more involved,” said Tuton.

Alright, the WCB is working to reduce injuries, but the reported injuries are up.

So we’re crying.

But reporting injuries earlier can prevent more debilitating injuries later, note officials.

And that’s good.

And the WCB’s investments in bonds and equity are doing well.

They grew to $139 million from $134 million in 2005.

That’s also good.

Equity investments are split between Canadian, US and foreign companies, about one-third apiece.

That means two thirds of the WCB’s equity investments are in foreign-owned firms.

And, with some of the money, the board is launching a “megaproject strategy” in anticipation of the future.

It is setting aside money today (we’re happy) to pay for a major accident (worrisome) on a pipeline (whoohooo!) or some other major development that might be built sometime in the future.

Such a fund would protect the board (whew!) in the event of a major disaster, said Tuton.

Which brings us to an e-mail from a reader this week.

“Let me get this straight,” they wrote. “We take money away from Yukon/Canadian businesses [through WCB assessments] so that we can give it to foreign businesses (who probably have crappy worker safety programs, and in some cases none) so that we can save up for a big capital project (that may never happen) so that we can get oil [or natural gas] to the foreign businesses so they can increase ‘productivity’ and kill their workers faster….”

And then the reader asked why capital costs for a megaproject would not include any money for worker safety/compensation programs.

Which, in the end, is a very good question. (RM)

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