Business still angling for lower WCB rates

There are currently 155 signatures on the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce's petition asking the government to do something about high workers' compensation rates.

There are currently 155 signatures on the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce’s petition asking the government to do something about high workers’ compensation rates.

The petition asks the Yukon government to take immediate action to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

And while the chamber has stopped mentioning it in subsequent e-mails, the petition still asks the government to “seek opportunities with larger jurisdictions to improve economies of scale.”

This was one of the many aspects of the chamber’s petition the Yukon Federation of Labour took issue with last week.

One of the signatories was Air North, said Federation president Alex Furlong.

“We’re talking about the promotion that they’ve always used as Yukon’s Airline,” said Furlong.

“And what they’re saying here is that if you can get a better deal down south go for it – are we to go to Air Canada if we can get a better deal?”

“For us as an airline we have a certain compliment of administrative staff, maintenance staff and so on that really could be located anywhere,” said Air North president Joe Sparling.

“But, as a Yukon company, we’ve always felt it’s our mandate and our desire to have the bulk of our employees living in the Yukon.”

Air North pay workers’ compensation premiums in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alberta and BC.

In BC, the airline pays $1.10 per $100 of a workers pay.

In the Yukon it pays $5.42.

“The reality is that our direct competitor has most of their administrative staff located outside the Yukon,” said Sparling.

“And the problem, of course, is that we have to match their airfare dollar for dollar.”

The company has repeatedly expressed its concern about the Yukon’s compensation board rates.

“We don’t necessary believe that the Yukon needs to amalgamate,” he said.

“But rates in the Yukon are significantly higher than the other jurisdictions and that causes some problems for us.”

Sparling isn’t sure what the problems with the organization might be.

It could be that there are too many workplace accidents, or too many claims.

Or the payout on the claims could be more than it needs to be, or the administrative costs too high.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to sit down and see how the problem can be solved,” said Sparling.

“And I would like to see that problem solved in the Yukon.”

Terra Firma Art Company was also singled out by the Federation of Labour on Friday.

It’s true that the Yukon has the highest average compensation rates in Canada.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone pays higher rates.

In fact, sign companies, like Terra Firma, would actually pay a higher rate in British Columbia.

Terra Firma owner Adam Green was concerned the chamber wouldn’t tell him this.

But he also has concerns about the compensation board.

“I don’t go Outside to look at what other people pay, I’m just looking at what I pay and how that affects my life and my worker’s life,” he said.

“And I have a real back and forth with WCB as far as whether to get on board with them or not.”

The compensation board promises to reward businesses that take extra precautions and create safety plans.

Green spent half a day filling out the forms to create a safety plan at the beginning of the summer.

To his knowledge, there hasn’t been any subsidy or reduction in his fee so far.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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