As the Workers’ Comp is a Right Campaign moves forward, it’s a good time to look again at priorities identified by injured worker groups across Canada and how in many cases they mirror the concerns of Ontario’s injured workers. In a recent response to the final report of the Alberta WCB Review Panel – which they applaud for calling for changes to put the needs of injured workers at the centre – the Canadian Injured Workers’ Association of Alberta (CIWAA) identified issues, omitted from the Report recommendations, that should be included in new legislation or policy:
- Justice now – while recommending interim relief for injured workers and employers during the appeal process, the Report makes no recommendations for those injured workers who are now unjustly denied benefits and often living in extreme poverty
- Access on request to reopen and review/appeal claims which, because of the systemic failures recognized by Review Panel’s report, been unjustly denied e.g. decisions that ignored the evidence of treating doctors /health care providers
- Claims suppression – put in place strong employer penalties and end systems (e.g.experience rating) which encourage it
- Non-economic loss payments should better be based on the real impact of a disability on a worker’s life outside the workplace. “Current payments show how little value is placed on the life of a worker..”
- Pre-existing conditions – when the WCB declares that normal aging constitutes a “pre-existing condition”, this is nothing less than age discrimination. The Board should recognize a pre-existing disability or impairment, not a pre-existing condition
- Medical Panel decisions should be subject to appeal, and all denied claims of injured workers where the decision was based on the opinion of WCB paid physicians which contradicted the supporting medical evidence of treating health care providers should be re-opened on request
- An ongoing consultative role for injured workers in the Fair Practices Office through their organizations
WCB’s fraudulent deeming practices
While the Review Panel report makes recommendations on the Board’s use of deeming, the CIWAA response proposes it goes further in addressing the practice of declaring a worker capable of working full-time at a phantom job, irrespective of the workers’ skills, experience, education and physical limitations and the existence and availability of such work [and then increasing] the imaginary wage for this phantom job every year until workers are left with a pittance or often no benefits at all.” (This also is an issue of immediate concern to Ontario injured workers currently urging the government to address the WSIB’s practice of deeming so the negative impact of minimum wage increases in Bill 148 on compensation benefits are avoided).
… deeming must be used only when documented evidence exists that a worker has refused a legitimate job offer for appropriate work. The job must be available and suitable for the worker’s skills, education and experience. The WCB must support injured workers in their efforts to obtain real work, recognizing the reluctance of employers to hire injured workers and the real difficulties faced in finding work. The reluctance of employers to hire injured workers must be recognized, and compensation continued until workers have found suitable work. A ‘deemed’ wage must not only be based on verifiable information as proposed by the panel and established annually, not years into the future. All workers now deemed should be able to have their case re-opened including access to appeal.”
- Canadian Injured Workers Association of Alberta. 2017 Oct. Response to the Final Report of the Alberta Workers Compensation Board (WCB) Review Panel.
- Morton, Peggy. 2017 Oct. 19. “Compensation Is a Right.” Workers’ Forum Online
- Barnetson, Bob. 2017 Jul. 14. “New Case Study Documents Alberta’s WCB Failings.” Rank and File.ca
- Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board Review Panel. 2017 Jun. Working Together : Report and Recommendations. (Summary)