[Updated] Two recent articles underscore how injured workers’ continue to bear the burden of the Board’s financial management:
“WSIB (Ontario) on a claims-denial binge as they transfer $285 million into their investment fund fund.” / Alec Caldwell (Canadian Contractor, 10 Nov.)
“The folks at Ontario’s WSIB are saving a tidy sum of money these days as they spin stories of fewer accidents occurring. And how improved health and safety programs are the cause. Rubbish.” Pointing to Ministry of Labour data that shows virtually unchanged number of fatalities and critical injuries, the founder of CARAHS (a health and safety organization) suggests the falling “claims allowed” rate is due instead to increased claims denial by the WSIB to reduce its “unfunded liability“.
So the WSIB has been turning around its balance sheet to the tune of billions of dollars. Never mind that that money is needed by legitimate claimants…”
With reference also to additional revenue collected from independent contractors since the passage of Bill 119, the author asks why funds are being transferred to the investment account while injured workers are being pushed to the edge.
There’s been much feedback in online comments to the article by those working in or suffering under the current system. The WSIB response has been to repeat its denial of excessive claims denial – and note that the unfunded liability is now lower than stated in the article (WSIB revised figure in its recently issued 2015 Economic Statement)
Yet changed culture and adjudication practices at the Board make increased claims denial a reality known to not only injured workers, their legal representatives but also health professionals whose medical reports get ignored (see the just-released OFL/ONIWG report “Prescription Over-ruled” ). As Caldwell asks – why this is not yet more widely recognized as the scandal that it is?
“WSIB 2015 Economic Statement – even cheaper insurance for boss coming” / Gary Newhouse, Michael S. Green (Workerscomplaw.ca, 20 Nov.)
Response to the recently released WSIB 2015 Economic Statement draws attention to an underlying ideology that reinforces income inequality. The Board announcement promising employers substantial reductions in their assessment rates starting 2017 due to an earlier-than-predicted elimination of the unfunded liability promises no such relief for injured workers. The commentary suggests the promise of returning $2 billion to the Ontario economy looks to redress injured workers’ benefit cuts by relying on “trickle-down economics”.
The authors highlight the financial instability created by the Harris government’s introduction of 30% cuts to employers’ rates and 15% cuts to injured workers’ benefits, an imbalance temporarily masked by the Board’s investment fund windfall until the financial market crisis hit in 2007. While employers’ rates have modestly increased since 2008-2014 (but are projected to be almost half the current rate by 2032), injured workers’ benefits continue to be cut both in number (by greater denial of claims) and amount (e.g. reduced NEL awards) – reductions achieved in less visible ways through administrative practice rather than by changes to policy.