“Workplace injuries can be devastating for workers. Unfortunately, our current workers' compensation system just compounds their challenges.” — Stephanie Smith, BCGEU President
Burnaby (26 July 2019) — On July 19, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) provided its written submission to the B.C. workers' compensation system review. The provincial government initiated the review in response to years of advocacy by workers and their unions to make the system more worker centered.
“The workers' compensation system was created as a compromise between the interests of workers and employers,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. “Thanks to the changes enacted by the previous B.C. Liberal government, our current system favours employers and fails workers. I'm glad to see our government taking concrete steps to make the compensation system work for injured workers.”
Current system negatively impacts injured workers
A series of changes enacted in 2002 shifted the system's focus from the needs of injured workers to the financial impact on employers. The result was an overall reduction in compensation benefits for injured workers, a limited ability for injured workers to appeal decisions, and a reduced focus on the merits and justice of an individual worker's case.
Smith was the first presenter to appear at the review's public hearings, where she emphasized the need to restore a balance between workers' and employers' interests and to rebuild workers' confidence in the system. At subsequent public hearings held in 14 communities across the province, dozens of current and former BCGEU/NUPGE members who have been injured on the job also courageously stepped up to tell their stories.
Goal to make the system more worker centered
“Workplace injuries can be devastating for workers,” says Smith. “Unfortunately, our current workers' compensation system just compounds their challenges. But that doesn't have to be the case and I am very hopeful that this review will be a critical first step in getting our compensation system back on solid footing with a renewed focus on the needs of injured workers.”
The stated goal of the independent review, with its report due to government this fall, is to make the system more worker centred. To that end, the BCGEU/NUPGE looks forward to reviewing the report's findings and recommendations with the expectation that significant changes are proposed to repair the social contract that is our workers' compensation system.