A Manufactured Crisis at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
October 4, 2018 Workers Safety
With much fanfare the provincial government has reduced premiums for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) employers
The average premium reduction will be 29.8 per cent.
This reduction is possible because the WSIB has eliminated the unfunded liability. That is expected to lead to $2.23 billion in savings for employers, once premium cuts are fully introduced. That is what the Ford government has said but it was a rather one sided picture of the situation at WSIB and for injured workers.
Here are a few facts that help tell the real story.
Fact One: The 29.8 reduction to employer premiums means less revenue coming into the system. Less revenue will inevitably lead to a further reduction in compensation provided to workers who have been injured and made ill on the job.
Fact Two: Aidan MacDonald of the Toronto-based Injured Workers’ Clinic has called the eight-year drive to reduce the board’s unfunded liability a “manufactured crisis.”
Fact Three: Injured workers first started to feel the impact of this manufactured crisis due to the passage of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act in 1997. Wage loss benefits were cut by 5 percent from 90 percent of net average earnings to 85 percent. The WSIB’s contribution to permanently disabled workers’ retirement pensions was cut in half. And cost-of-living increases for permanently and partially disabled workers were deliberately set below the rate of inflation.
Fact Four: What Ontario governments know, but never mention, is that having no Unfunded Liability is only a requirement for private insurers. WSIB, as an arm’s length agency of the provincial government, is different. It can count on a guaranteed steady revenue source in government-mandated employer premiums.
Fact Five: In 2010, the WSIB issued compensation benefits to injured workers for about $4.8 billion. By 2017 that number was cut to $2.3 billion.
Fact Six: The elimination of the WSIB’s unfunded liability has also included reductions in health care expenditures and the reduction of benefits for what the WSIB calls “pre-existing conditions.” These reductions occur even when those conditions never caused the injured worker to miss time from work before their injury.
Fact Seven: The WSIB’s own statistics show that the percentage of claims in which it accepts a worker as having a permanent impairment has gone down. In 2009 that figure was 12.7 percent of claims. By 2015 just 5.6 percent of all claims accepted the worker as having a permanent impairment.
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