Why all Working Manitobans Should Pay Attention to the Workers Compensation Act Review
The MGEU's written submission to the Legislative Review Committee outlines a series of recommendations that the union feels would significantly improve the Workers Compensation Act.
Feb 22, 2017
Today, our union represents over 40,000 Manitobans who work in a wide variety of workplaces ― from road repair to home care, child welfare to college classrooms. No matter how diverse our membership, however, we face a common challenge: far too many still suffer physical or psychological injuries as a result of their work.
That’s why the current review of Manitoba’s Workers’ Compensation Act is something we should all be following with interest.
A Little History
The Workers Compensation Act is government legislation that sets out the framework for Manitoba’s workers compensation system. It enables the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) to exist and generally defines the type of benefits and services that injured workers receive.
The workers compensation system in Canada is based on a historical compromise, whereby workers gave up their right to sue their employers for workplace injuries in exchange for a insurance program fully funded by employers. The Act was first passed by the Manitoba legislature over 100 years ago. Since then, the legislation has been adapted to recognize evolving workplaces and our improved understanding of workplace injuries.
In 2004, a government-appointed committee held province-wide public consultations to gather ideas about how to modernize the Act. Through our experience assisting injured members, the MGEU was able to voice a number of ongoing concerns and issues with WCB’s delivery of benefits and services. We made recommendations on how to improve the Act, some of which were accepted by the committee and included in their report to the government.
The result was Bill 25, The Workers Compensation Amendment Act, which was unanimously endorsed by members of the provincial legislative assembly. We believe the resultant legislative changes provided improved benefits, and a more fair system, which reset the balance between the interests of business and labour.
Most notably, wage loss benefits were no longer reduced after 24 months, the cap on insurable earnings was removed, WCB coverage was expanded to more industries, and firefighters gained assurance of compensation through a presumption that provided guaranteed benefits if they developed certain diseases. There was also a commitment to review the Act every 10 years.
The 2016 Review
In January 2016, the Minister of Labour announced the formation of another legislative WCB review committee made up of both business and labour representatives.
After consultation with members, and working in collaboration with the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL), we made a written submission to the Legislative Review Committee, outlining a series of recommendations that we feel would significantly improve the Act.
The MGEU recommendations include:
• that psychological injuries be adjudicated and managed the same way as physical injuries so that affected workers get benefits and treatment faster;
• that wage loss benefits be increased and that the calculation process be simplified;
• that the WCB increase its work to reduce claim suppression and aggressive employer tactics;
• that the opinions of treating physicians in the community are respected by the WCB;
• that a consultation process occur before any significant change in WCB policy;
• that there be increased support for the prevention of workplace injuries; and
• that increased investments are made into workplace safety and health education targeting young, new and vulnerable workers.
The consultation process has now ended and it’s up to the Legislative Review Committee to consider submissions and prepare a report to government proposing changes to the Act.
The MGEU looks forward to the Committee’s report and hopes their recommendations will reflect our vision of a modern and progressive workers compensation system. That is to say, a system that respects true collective liability, embraces prevention as a core purpose, acknowledges and actively works to prevent claim suppression, and provides fair, compassionate and timely benefits and services to injured workers.
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