Liberals eliminate workers’ voice at WCB

Business in driver’s seat, and they’re not going our way, says HEU

The Hospital Employees’ Union says workers have lost their voice at the Workers’ Compensation Board after the Liberals’ replacement of the entire WCB panel of administrators with their business allies on September 28.

Labour minister Graham Bruce, riding a wave of widespread resentment against the WCB, replaced the panel with two accountants and a lawyer who represents some of the most powerful business interests in the province.

Bruce appointed lawyer Alan Winter to review WCB’s workplace safety standards, funding for injured workers, rehabilitation and survivor benefits.

In so doing, the Liberals have in one fell swoop eliminated any worker voice at the WCB while Winter conducts his review. But the Liberals’ business friends will have their interests protected by this lawyer for the Business Council of B.C., the Coalition of B.C. Business and the Employers’ Forum.

“These new trustees are certainly going to push their own agenda,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “And that agenda will include reduced health and safety protection for workers and significantly decreased benefits for injured workers. And we fear they’ll make it even more difficult to qualify for a claim.”

Allnutt says that dissatisfaction with the board is legitimate, but the government is using that as a cover to cut benefits and, he suspects, regulations.

“We think they are going to drastically loosen up regulations now in place to protect workers from injury and illness on-the-job,” he says. “We are hearing that injury on duty will be capped at 90 per cent of net pay. This threatens HEU’s provisions on injury-on-duty pay that we fought so hard to maintain in our contract during the last round of collective bargaining.”

“This is a windfall for employers, no doubt about it,” says Allnutt. “Instead of finding a way to make workplaces safer for all British Columbians, the Liberal government has just given carte blanche to industry to continue to injure workers.”