B.C. workers are paying for refunds to business

Date: 
Wednesday, July 05, 2017

WorkSafe B.C. surpluses... It looks as though the claim that WorkSafe BC is overfunded will affect the benefits payable to workers injured or killed at work.

By Merrill O’Donnell, Workers’ Advocate

The provincial government’s recent announcement to create a policy to return all future surpluses in WorkSafe B.C.’s accident fund to the business community reminds us of the unflinching accuracy of Marx’s statement that “the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

As noted in its news release, the government’s resulting policy, which will be crafted by June 2017 and supported by the necessary statutory changes during the next legislative sitting, “will trigger a return of funds to employers when WorkSafe B.C.’s funding hits a specific target level of assets over liabilities over a period of time.” According to Shirley Bond, the minister of labour at that time, “employers fund the workers’ compensation system in our province and we think their money should be returned to them when the system is over-funded.”

The government has revealed–without a shadow of a doubt–who it serves, certainly not workers.

As we contemplate the government’s proposal, it is instructive to remind ourselves who creates value (read profits) for employers. Contrary to Bond’s statement that “employers fund the workers’ compensation system,” the fact is that all value in our economy is ultimately created by labour. True, in an economic structure based on property rights such as ours, individual employers emerge to develop the means of production and employment for workers. But only by harnessing those workers can value, wealth, and profit be generated. Without workers the machines (i.e., the means of production) lay idle and powerless. It is worker-generated profits, not employers, who ultimately fund the workers’ compensation system.

As for the claim that WorkSafe B.C. is “over-funded,”, we must ask, how did this happen? The answer isn’t too hard to find. The legislative and policy changes brought in by the B.C. Liberals in 2002 as a result of the aggressive lobbying of the business community has, as planned by the business community and as expected by anybody who was paying attention, generated significant surpluses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

And what did those legislative and policy changes consist of?

The list is too long for me to provide an exhaustive account, but let me give you a little taste:
  • benefit rates were reduced from 75% of gross income to 90% of net income thereby reducing benefits by 13%
  • power was concentrated in the board of directors, including the delegation of power to enact binding policy and the removal of discretion in decision-making processes
  • the Consumer Price Index was reduced to the rate of CPI increases less than 1% and to a cap of 4% in any year, and calculated only once yearly rather than twice
  • standard lifetime pensions were eliminated for pensions that stop at age 65
  • deep cuts were made to employer premiums
  • loss of earnings disability awards were significantly reduced and there was an unconscionable clamping down on vocational rehabilitation services which were supposed to prepare injured workers who could no longer return to their pre-injury jobs for meaningful careers
  • the cancerous growth of the culture at WorkSafe B.C. that views the business community as their “client” and injured workers as the enemy.

The government has assured the public that “the amendment will not affect the benefits payable to workers injured or killed at work.” That’s a lie. Not only will workers’ compensation benefits, disability awards, and vocational rehabilitation services be negatively affected, more workers will die on the job because funding for accident protection will be reduced over time.

As BC Building Trades Executive Director Tom Sigurdson said, “this announcement is a betrayal to every injured worker and their families.” That’s the truth.

For More Information: 

Contact the BC Building Trades office
(778) 397-2220

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