The average workers’ compensation assessment rates will decrease by 15.6 per cent next year.
The announcement last week received “a big thumbs-up” from both chambers of commerce.
“It’s quite good news for business, so we were excited to hear about that,” said Yukon Chamber of Commerce chair Jerome Babyn.
“We need to continue to ask WCB to make sure that they’re doing everything possible to try to bring costs down for the Yukon.”
The average assessment rate will drop from this year’s level of $2.95 to $2.49 per $100 of assessable payroll.
“It’s not an across-the-board decrease,” said compensation board president Valerie Royle.
“Some industries will get more than that and some might see an increase if their costs are still going up.”
Specific rates for each of the 69 different industry groups will be announced in the fall.
The rate drop will mean a decrease in revenues of more than $4 million for the compensation board.
It is able to do this because of a 43 per cent reduction in claims costs last year.
Royle attributes this decrease to the success of the board’s Return-to-Work program.
As the name implies, the program focuses on getting workers back on the job as safely and quickly as possible.
This is something that is good for the employer, aids in the worker’s full recovery and reduces the claims costs paid out by the compensation board.
The program got 88 per cent of injured workers back at work within 90 days.
The board has a few additional tricks up its sleeve to continue to decrease rates in the future.
“To get it lower we feel we need to take a harder stance on occupational health and safety,” said Royle.
“So one of the things that we’ll be doing starting June 1 is we’ll be releasing the names of all employers and workers who are fined.”
There were four workplace fatalities in the Yukon last year.
In order to increase safety, the board has been working with employers, consulting, education, raising fines, and now is publishing the names of offenders, said Royle.
“The cost of not doing this, let alone the financial cost, is just too high.”
In the past, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce chair Muriel Chalifoux has said benefits paid out to injured workers in the territory may be too high.
Decreasing these benefits may be another way to lower the assessment rate.
“To make sure we’re competitive, you’ve got to always look at those things,” said Babyn.
“That includes administrative costs, which are always something we should be looking at in terms of any business.”
When it comes to reducing workers’ benefits, “It’s not on, it never will be on,” according to Federation of Labour president Alex Furlong.
“We will fight tooth and nail to make sure workers’ rights are maintained. We will never advocate for the reduction of benefits.
“They wouldn’t have to pay out benefits if there were no workplace injuries.”
Furlong is also against cuts to the compensation board itself in an effort to reduce assessment rates.
“I get really ticked off, quite frankly, when employers are talking about reducing administration costs, because that’s just a red herring,” he said.
“The costs to the system are directly related to injuries, not administration costs.”
Furlong applauds the board’s decision to release the names of offenders.
“We supported the board’s approach in education first, but that ain’t working,” he said.
“Some employers have really taken that mantra and are very progressive in health and safety, but others, quite frankly, don’t give a hoot.
“So an employer that I see published all the time for health and safety violations, it would give me pause to consider whether I want to work there.”
The Joint Chamber Committee on WCB will be hosting a business breakfast on Thursday at the Yukon Inn to get feedback from employers.
The meeting will look at the work the committee has done and where it should focus its energy in the future.
Royle will be in attendance to give a short presentation and answer questions.
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