ST. JOHN’S, NL – Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) president Mary Shortall says workers in the province continue to be victimized by the same workers’ compensation system that is meant to protect them.
In a news release Friday afternoon, the NLFL sharply criticized WorkplaceNL’s announcement Thursday that workers’ compensation average assessment rates for employers will be lowered, effective Jan. 1, 2018, from $2.06 to $1.90 per $100 of payroll, a 7.8 per cent decrease.
Shortall said she sees no sign from government to increase the percentage of earnings benefits for injured workers, however, despite many years of appealing to government to act upon the recommendations of the 2013 statutory review.
The review recommended injured workers’ compensation benefits be increased to 85 per cent of net earnings from 80 per cent
“Employers and injured workers both paid to offset the funding shortage in the early 1990s,” Shortall said.
“For five straight years now we have seen employers’ fees reduced substantially. Meanwhile, injured workers continue to suffer with reduced benefits despite the fact that they have been shouldering a greater portion of that deficit since then. Despite a healthy injury fund that is 126 per cent funded, our compensation rates remain the lowest in Canada.”
The NLFL says it has met with multiple government ministers responsible for WorkplaceNL to request legislative action on the recommendations of the statutory review, but there still has been no legislative changes.
The news release states six jurisdictions in Canada provide 90 per cent of net earnings to workers’ compensation claimants, while two others provinces provide 85 per cent of net earnings.
Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest income replacement rate at 80 per cent of net earnings.
“No one goes to work thinking they will get injured or sick,” Shortall said.
“However, the reality is that over 200 workers in our province are seriously injured each year. These workers, and their families, are forced to rely on workers’ compensation to provide adequate compensation, and to help them recover and return to work. They deserve to be treated and compensated with dignity and fairness no matter what province they live in, but in fact, here in NL, they are sinking further into poverty.”
WorkplaceNL has acted like a private insurance agency for far too long, Shortall said.
“The injured workers fund exists to address both employers’ and workers’ concerns. This corporate culture is being supported by the Liberal government in their failure to respond to the need to increase workers’ benefits.”