WCB debunks chamber report

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce should be careful what it wishes for, says Craig Tuton, chair of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.

The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce should be careful what it wishes for, says Craig Tuton, chair of the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

The chamber has bristled at the assessment rates some of its member businesses have to pay the compensation board.

It has launched a petition asking the territory to consider outsourcing the local board’s operations to BC, citing a chamber-sponsored report as evidence this is a good idea.

If harmonizing with a large jurisdiction looks too good to be true, as presented in the chamber’s report, it probably is, said Tuton.

“The study on which the chamber has based their comments is riddled with errors in fact, as well as in methodology and it glosses over and fails to mention many key implications,” he said.

“There are many errors in that report – too many of them, in fact, for me to cite every instance here. So let me just confine my comments to a few.”

The rates presented as British Columbia assessment rates are merely base rates, not actual rates, Tuton told the legislature.

In BC, there is an additional cost to each employer based upon their claims cost history.

“Some employers who complained most loudly about their assessment rates have been among the worst offenders with regard to claims costs,” he said.

Many Yukon employers would receive rate increases under the BC system.

In some industries – such as underground mining, concrete, furniture making, equipment rentals, livestock and power plants – the base rates are higher in BC then they are in the Yukon.

And if an employer has to make a claim, these rates would then double.

The Whitehorse chamber study asserts BC employers would be prepared to subsidize Yukon employers, said Tuton.

“I think that’s just purely wishful thinking,” he said.

“In fact, the CEO of WorkSafeBC has stated categorically to us that British Columbia employers will not be asked to subsidize Yukon employers.”

BC would likely set separate rates for Yukon employers based on claims costs and the cost to administer this new system.

And workers’ compensation legislation is very different between the Yukon and BC.

Yukoners would need to adopt BC’s far more conservative workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety legislation.

For example, if a long-haul truck driver earning $80,000 a year is injured and needs time away from work to recover, he would receive 21 per cent less in benefits under the BC system.

And despite what is said in the report, the Yukon aids workers faster than BC.

BC’s average time to first payment is 23.1 days. Yukon’s average first payment is 19.7 days, not 41 days as the chamber report claims.

“One could argue – and I would – that Yukon injured workers actually receive better care than their counterparts in British Columbia.”

BC is also far more aggressive with their fines.

A safety officer can issue a fine for up to $45,000 for an operational health and safety violation that does not involve an injury.

If there is a serious injury or fatality, WorkSafeBC can issue fines of up to $500,000 without having to go through the courts.

If a case does go to court, a fine for a first offence can reach $600,000 and subsequent offences can reach $1.2 million.

And all Yukon gas stations would be required to install pay-at-the-pump systems or have more than one attendant working at all times.

“So, I mean, we are willing to look at stiffer fines and more prescriptive regulations if that’s what employers are asking for,” said Tuton.

“But in our consultation process with these employers, that has not been what they’ve been saying.”

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com

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