Begin with a commitment to workers’ compensation, then ask if it is adequately funded
We’ll give the injured workers what we can afford, but right now we have to tighten our belts.” That’s not right, because it is a fundamental part of our system of justice, and injured workers have a right to full and fair compensation. (J. McKinnon, presentation to Stdg Cttee Govt Agencies Jul 4, 2012 – Agency review of the WSIB)
Ontario’s workers’ compensation is not charity or social assistance. It is a legal right to payment and rehabilitation for losses and damage caused by work-related injury or disease established through Meredith’s historic compromise : Injured workers gave up the right to sue in exchange for full and fair no-fault compensation as long as the injury or disease lasts. In return, employers enjoy shared, predictable costs, and are protected from potentially ruinous lawsuits.
- Injured workers pay into the system through their lost opportunities, loss of enjoyment of life and lost wages (compensation benefits are based on 85% of take home pay; injured workers lose their EI and CPP contributions and any health care benefits from their workplace). It is for this reason that Meredith decided employers alone should fund the system. Meredith also pointed that workers would not be able to pass the cost of payments into the system, whereas employers could and undoubtedly would.
- Employers share responsibility, under collective liability, for fully funding compensation costs. They pay into a fund administered by a public agency, the WCB/WSIB. Employer assessments (rates) are based on their classification (industry grouping), payroll and the cost of claims for injuries at their workplace. Employers’ risks and costs are spread across those in the same sector who are covered under the Act (currently approximately only 72%). Like any other “cost of doing business”, this expense can be passed along to customers through pricing of goods or services and to workers through lower wages.
- The public pays when costs are downloaded onto taxpayer-funded social assistance and healthcare systems because the workers’ compensation system is failing injured workers. Increasing numbers are pushed into poverty and onto welfare and unemployment rolls through policies that are reversing decisions while also increasing claims denials, appeal delays, cuts to benefit payments, retraining and medical care.
Cost-shifting through cutting benefits or keeping employers’ rates artificially low is done at the expense of injured workers, their families and Ontario taxpayers.