Safety the only option

Safety the only option Open letter to Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber Of Commerce: You have done a terrible disservice to your membership and to Yukon by misrepresenting the facts regarding joining the BC workers' compensation system. It i

Open letter to Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber Of Commerce:

You have done a terrible disservice to your membership and to Yukon by misrepresenting the facts regarding joining the BC workers’ compensation system.

It is time to lay out the real facts:

Many, many Yukon employers would pay higher rates under the BC system. Even if Yukon employers could simply get in on BC assessment rates (they can’t), the rates you have been quoting are just base rates Ð a starting point for calculating the total rates, which can be 100 per cent higher than the base rates.

You have also failed to mention the many Yukon businesses whose BC base rates would be higher than their total Yukon rates, and whose calculated BC rate may well put them out of business.

Benefits to Yukon injured workers would be slashed, as would support for the widows and orphans of Yukon workers killed on the job.

This is where the real cost savings are to be had under the BC system.

Widows and orphans of Yukon workers killed on the job would receive up to 65 per cent less support under the BC system, and injured Yukon workers could receive 20 to 30 per cent less.

If you are intent on saving money by slashing support to those injured or killed in Yukon workplaces, you should be up front about it; I am confident that Yukoners would give you honest feedback about your values.

Your proposal and report assumes that BC employers would be willing to pay higher assessment rates in order to subsidize Yukon employers. Common sense should tell you that this is a pipe dream.

If that has failed, the CEO of the BC workers’ compensation board has stated categorically that BC employers will not be asked to subsidize Yukon employers. Instead, Yukon employers would pay rates based on Yukon costs, the same as they are now.

You know the truth behind the “losses” incurred by the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board. YWCHSB incurred a $20-million loss when a previous government ordered massive settlements for a small group of Yukon injured workers; Yukon employers did not complain at the time.

The unrealized losses to the value of the YWCHSB investment portfolio has been fully recouped, as you know. The remainder of the losses were incurred by subsidizing Yukon employers, and you complained when the board of directors stopped that because it was unsustainable.

Yukon workplace safety problems continue to drive assessment costs. Your assertion that, since Yukon workplaces are only the fourth-most dangerous in the country, Yukon employers are obviously doing their part for safety is, quite frankly, disturbing.

Four Yukon workers have been killed on the job so far in 2009, and nearly 1,600 have been injured. Rates are driven by the costs of taking care of these fellow Yukoners.

If you want lower assessment rates (as do we), the only solution is better workplace safety and better return-to-work planning for those who are injured. Please tell that to your membership.

Craig Tuton, chair YWCHSB

Whitehorse

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