Petition to merge WCB a con job: labour

The Yukon Federation of Labour has denounced a Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce petition to merge the territory's compensation board with BC's.

The Yukon Federation of Labour has denounced a Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce petition to merge the territory’s compensation board with BC’s.

Federation president Alex Furlong also called into question the leadership of chamber president Rick Karp.

Merging with BC would cut benefits received by injured workers in the territory, Furlong told a news conference last Friday morning.

However, nowhere in the petition is there any mention of these cuts.

These cuts could be very large, especially for widows and orphans of deceased workers.

“Mr. Karp wants to save money on the backs of widows and orphans,” said federation policy director Douglas Rody.

“He should be ashamed of himself.”

The Yukon would also have little to no control over rates, programs or benefits if the compensation boards were merged.

The chamber was one of the big proponents that the compensation board be brought to the territory so they could have more control and help shape policies.

A merger would also mean adopting BC’s strict safety regulations, minimum ages and higher fines, said Furlong.

“That wouldn’t be desirable to employers, but we would love to see it.”

A report put out by the chamber suggested that the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board scale back to 28 employees from its current 82.

This will cut back administrative costs and make use of BC’s economies of scale.

“I don’t think he has the mental agility to understand that that’s 54 less jobs in the Yukon,” said Rody.

“That’s a novel approach to dealing with a recession.”

The whole basis of the petition is wrong, said Rody.

“They say that we have the highest rates in Canada, which is simply not true,” he said.

“We have the highest average rates, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is paying more.”

Rody pointed to Terra Firma, one of the first businesses on the petition.

If the Yukon were to merge with BC, Terra Firma, would pay higher rates than it currently pays.

“I wonder what kind of con job they gave to Terra Firm to get them to sign this,” said Rody.

“Why would anyone sign a petition if their rate is going up? I wonder what Mr. Karp said to them.

“And I can’t help but wonder if there are more businesses like this on that list.”

There are 2,900 employers in the territory.

Of these, 1,800 have seen rate decreases since the compensation board last readjusted its assessment rates.

As of Monday morning, only 136 individuals had signed the petition.

There was often more than one signature per business, Furlong said.

Six people signed the petition on behalf of Canadian Tire.

And there are also a number of signatures representing Air North, although CEO and president Joe Sparling’s name is curiously absent.

“They pick statistics out of Disneyland that are not accurate, that are misleading, and then they get their members to sign a petition based on that report,” said Furlong.

“All he had to do was pick up the phone to get the current stats.”

Furlong questioned whether Karp was representing all Whitehorse-based employers.

“I question his leadership,” he said.

“Is this adversarial leadership the kind you want from your chamber?”

Minister Glenn Hart has already made it clear that the Yukon wasn’t interested in harmonizing its compensation board with WorkSafeBC.

He made the comments last Thursday.

By Friday morning the chamber of commerce seemed to switch tactics.

In a joint press release with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, both chambers called for everyone “to work together with a sense of purpose and urgency to improve Yukon WCB assessment rates.”

There was no mention of joining with another jurisdiction.

And president Rick Karp’s name was absent. Muriel Chalifoux, chair of the Whitehorse chamber, spoke on behalf of the organization.

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com

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