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Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation

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									Submission to the Saskatchewan
Workers’ Compensation
Committee of Review




By the Canadian Union of Public Employees



September 2006
                             TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                                                                          Page

1. Foreword ............................................................................. 1

2. Introduction and Context .................................................... 2

3. The Saskatchewan WCB .................................................... 4

4. State of the WCB ................................................................ 5

5. Injury Level Too High ........................................................ 7

6. Compensation Issues .......................................................... 10

7. WCB Administration Issues .............................................. 12

                        No Privatization .......................................... 12
                        Rates ............................................................ 13
                        Return to Work ............................................ 14
                        Waiting Period ............................................ 15
                        Occupational Disease Recognition ............. 16
                        Occupational Disease Panel ........................ 18
                        Occupational Health Clinic ......................... 19
                        Role of Primary Care .................................. 19
                        Appeals ........................................................ 20
                        Committee of Review Activity ................... 20

8. Benefit Levels ..................................................................... 21

9. Conclusion .......................................................................... 22

10. Summary of Recommendations ....................................... 24

11. Summary of Questions ...................................................... 28
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Submission to Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation
Committee of Review 2006

1. Foreword

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) welcomes the opportunity to present
our views and recommendations to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation
Committee of Review. CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing 540,000 members
across the country. In Saskatchewan, CUPE represents 26,000 workers.


Our members work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, community clinics, school
boards, municipalities, libraries, child care centres, universities, group homes, animal
shelters and a number of other public sector workplaces.


CUPE is generally concerned with occupational health and safety and specifically with
the elimination of workplace hazards. We believe that the elimination of hazards and the
prevention of injuries, illnesses and fatalities are the key components to improving the
workplace.


Unfortunately, our members face preventable occupational health and safety hazards
every day. Many members have experienced the irreparable harm of work related
injuries and illnesses. They, more than anyone, are aware of the threats to their health and
the obstacles in their way to better health once they are injured.


We are grateful that the Workers’ Compensation Act provides for this periodic review. It
remains an important process for the workers of Saskatchewan as well as their
dependants.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                         1
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
We hope the committee takes our submission with the best of intentions and will focus on
the improvement of the WCB with the immediate goal of bettering compensation for
workers and the overall goal being the elimination of occupational hazards to protect
workers from injuries, disease and fatalities.


2. Introduction and Context
For about the last two decades the federal and various provincial governments have
shifted their view of how governments should be run. They have moved away from the
idea that governments and their agencies exist to serve citizens and have gone towards a
business and corporate model that privileges the idea of “customers” over actual citizens
who participate in society. We have ended up in a state whereby citizens – who really
have a stake in economic and political decisions – have become mere consumers of
government services: customers that need to be managed and controlled to suit the needs
and goals of the organization or government. The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation
Board has gone down this road of looking at the people it serves as consumers rather than
as citizens who need to participate in civil society. We see this change reflected in the
board cutting benefit entitlements, restricting recognition of occupational diseases,
reducing employer premiums and pushing early return to work protocols


Look at the Board’s 2005 Annual Report; it is filled with business-speak that relegates
workers and their concerns to the bottom of the list. And when workers are mentioned
there is a significant dissonance between what the Board should be doing and what it is
doing. On page 5 the report states: “Seventy-five years ago, workplace injuries were
viewed simply – as a cost of production. Today, their toll on both the bottom line and on
the suffering of injured workers and those around them is taking on greater importance.”
Isn’t it telling that the “bottom line” gets listed before the worker?


Fiscal performance of the Saskatchewan WCB trumps proper, and even adequate,
compensation for injured workers. Many of the financial imperatives of the Board are in
direct conflict with providing timely and adequate compensation.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          2
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Looking at the Meredith Principlesi, the bedrock of workers’ compensation, there is no
mention of how good the bottom line needs to be, or talk of a “turnaround in our financial
performance.”


This growing organizational chasm between what compensation boards should be
focused on and what they are actually focusing on compels the Board to forget that their
actions and decisions involve real people with real injuries and illnesses. There are
enough barriers already between the corporate-pushers who make decisions and actual
workers’ concerns, without having all the unnecessary organizational structures,
protocols and barriers that create a further distance between decision makers and
workers. Remember, it is the compensation board that serves the worker, not the other
way around. It is all too common for workers – injured or not – to fear the very
organization and system that is supposed to help them. The system has to change and it
begins with the WCB shifting its focus away from corporate imperatives and towards the
very people who make our society, economy and culture stronger. It’s time to put
workers and their health at the top of the priority list.


Any assessment of the Workers’ Compensation System must begin with an
acknowledgement that employers hold the balance of power in the workplace and must
be legally responsible for workplace health and safety.


Workers’ compensation legislation removes the worker’s right to sue employers for
damages for injury and loss arising out of workplace injuries or illnesses. In lieu of losing
this right, workers have rights to medical care, monetary compensation and rehabilitation.
It is these rights that form the foundation of compensation systems and must be
strengthened and improved upon. CUPE welcomes any change that bolsters and broadens
these basic rights and we vigorously oppose changes that weaken or restrict them.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          3
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
CUPE supports the basic principles of workers’ compensation and maintains the system
must remain a no-fault one based on the collective liability of employers as a group, and
governed by the benefit of doubt principle that favours workers. Workers’ compensation
must also be publicly administered and operated.


3. The Saskatchewan WCB

The chief executive officer of Saskatchewan’s WCB states in the 2005 Annual Report
that “by reducing the number of injuries, we reduce the associated compensation costs.”
This statement is significant in what the CEO doesn’t state: that injury reduction should
be a goal in and of itself and that compensation costs shouldn’t be a driving factor in
protecting workers’ health. There is too much focus on reducing time loss claims – which
we all know do not reflect the real injury or accident rates in workplaces – so that the
bottom line looks good while relegating workers’ health to a secondary concern. If the
bottom line remains the primary concern, than the true causes of workers’ injuries (causes
like poor work organization, stress and workload) will be ignored by the WCB and one of
the highest injury rates in Canada will continue to plague Saskatchewan workers.


There is a disturbing pattern of blaming the worker in so many of the Board’s activities,
literature and programs. From behavioural science programsii to the duty of the worker to
mitigate costs for the Board to absurd pre-existing conditions disallowing compensation,
the WCB has wasted too much energy on blaming the worker while at the same time
refusing to tackle systemic workplace problems. The much harder task (and politically
braver task) is to take on employers and address acute work organization problems: how
workers are being improperly directed to do their jobs, the lack of training for workers,
overwork, privatization, conflicting work demands, lower worker to client ratios and
downloading of management responsibilities onto workers. These are just some of the
issues that jeopardize the health and safety of our members and lead to high injury rates.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                           4
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That injury reduction should be a goal in and of itself and compensation costs
      shouldn’t be a factor in protecting workers’ health.
     That the WCB must take on employers to prevent injuries by addressing acute
      work organization problems like: lack of training, overwork, privatization,
      conflicting work demands, lower worker to client ratios and downloading of
      management responsibilities.


4. State of the WCB

The WCB continues to place too much pressure on workers and fails to steer employers
in the direction of the Meredith Principles. While certain sections of the Workers’
Compensation legislation appear to incorporate Meredith’s approach, CUPE members
experience a lack of principles being applied in the real world of compensation. CUPE
recognizes that the Board’s statistical injury rate has fallen somewhat, however there is
still a persistent problem of severity and duration of injuries. While a drop in the
statistical injury rate and time loss claims (4.95 per cent in 2002 to 4.25 per cent in 2005)
quoted in the Board’s 2005 Annual Report reflects a change, Saskatchewan still leads the
way with one of the highest injury rates in Canada.


Looking at the WCB statistics for 2005 provides a worrying picture for workers in
Saskatchewan. The number of claims reported were at a high of 39,904 while the number
of claims accepted were at a five year low of 13,904. To compound this situation the
number of appeals (Appeals Department, 1,149; and Board Level, 308) was at a five year
high as well. Given that the WCB achieved a significant drop in time loss claims, it
appears as though that was done not by prevention measures or better enforcement or
elimination of hazards, but by simply lowering the acceptance of claims and rejecting
more appeals. How does the WCB account for the lowering rate of claims acceptance and
the high number of appeals? Has there been a change in the way the statistics are
compiled and analyzed at the Board over the last five years? How does the Board account
for the drop in time loss claims from 4.95 per cent in 2002 to 4.25 per cent in 2005?

Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          5
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
There has been too much focus by the Board on reducing time loss claims so that the
bottom line looks good but there hasn’t been much attention paid to workers’ health. The
2005 Annual Report states: “The WCB has realized cost savings from reducing
workplace injuries by way of claim costs attributed to time loss claims . . . this fall in
claim costs was an important contributor to the turnaround in our financial performance.”
Combine that statement with, “On the strength of 2005’s financial performance, WCB
administration received approval from Board Members to decrease the 2006 average
employer premium rate by 6.6 % to $1.84.”


Together these two statements definitely show the financial strength of the WCB but they
harm Saskatchewan workers. Whittling down claim costs and lowering premiums lays
the foundation for further stresses on workers in Saskatchewan. Who really pays the price
of lowering claim costs and premiums? Workers.


Again from the 2005 Annual Report: “Social marketing efforts, through WorkSafe
Saskatchewan and Safe Saskatchewan, will continue to influence the perceptions of the
significance and targeted programs of injuries at work.” There is an almost Orwellian
tone to this statement: essentially the Board is saying it’s the perception that needs to be
changed not the reality of workplace injuries. We urge the Board not to believe its own
rhetoric and actually contribute to the prevention of injuries, illness, disease and death
through concrete workplace programs that look at systemic and structural problems with
the way work is done so that workers get the support they need. What has WorkSafe
Saskatchewan cost the WCB and how many injuries and fatalities has it prevented?


Remember, it is employers who are controlling the workplace in which injuries and
fatalities are occurring. The rights of injured workers – to medical care, compensation
and rehabilitation – must be improved upon by the Board. Workers’ compensation in
Saskatchewan must maintain a strict no-fault compensation system with liability clearly
in employers’ hands and the benefit of doubt must be given to workers at every turn,
otherwise the system is headed for more crises.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                             6
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Board stop lowering employer premiums and increase compensation
      benefits.
     That workers’ compensation maintains a strict no-fault system with liability in
      employers’ hands.


5. Injury Level Too High
CUPE members are still experiencing too many injuries (time loss, no time loss,
unaccepted claims, hidden and undocumented claims) and health care sector workers are
bearing the brunt of those injuries. Nursing aides and orderlies are still topping the list of
occupational injuries in the WCB statistics for 2005. In health care there were 2468 time
loss injuries, 2603 no time loss injuries and countless unacknowledged and
undocumented injuries. Nursing aides and orderlies continue to experience very high
injury rates: 815 time loss, 569 no time loss. Not surprisingly (but it remains a tragedy
and a failure on the part of employers nonetheless) nursing aides and orderlies
experienced more assaults and violent acts than security guards in Saskatchewan.


It is widely accepted that the WCB statistics are lower than the actual number of injuries
and illnesses. There is enormous pressure on members to not report claims due to
mandatory return to work programs, increasingly unaccepted claims by the Board and
absenteeism management policies that deter workers from reporting. Volume 1 of the
2003 Provincial Auditor’s Report brought the injury situation into clear relief:


        On average, over 10% of workers suffered injuries of all types. Between 10% and
        20% of health care workers are injured annually in many long-term care centres,
        hospitals, and home care services. In a few Saskatchewan health care facilities, up
        to 32% of health care workers are injured annually.
        WCB payments for treatment, rehabilitation, and lost wages were about $6
        million per year for the two largest regions. Expenses for sick time, replacement
        workers, and overtime could be significant.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                           7
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
        The two largest health regions paid WCB $10.9 million in 2001 and $8.9 million
        in 2002. During times of staff shortages the human and financial costs may be
        higher, (due to) overtime to staff working extra hours, replacement staff for
        injured co-workers.


Employers in the health care sector have not dealt with the causes of injuries and disease
but have instead introduced programs that blame the worker: wellness programs that
focus on the worker’s lifestyle; behavioural science programs that focus on blaming the
worker for their injury or disease and forcing the full burden of prevention on workers;
and attendance management programs that force workers to come to work sick and not
report injuries for fear of being disciplined. These programs must be eliminated and
progressive prevention programs that focus on the workplace and work practices must be
instituted.


Along with health care workers, thousands of workers are injured on the job every year in
Saskatchewan but these injuries are only the tip of the iceberg. Many workers suffer
injury and death from occupational diseases that are not recognized by the WCB. In 2005
there were close to 40,000 reported compensation claims and 20 fatalities. Despite the
Board’s self-congratulatory statements about dropping time loss claims and injury rates,
the picture is not good for workers. There was no significant drop in accepted claims
compared to the last five years. The WCB reported a record number of disallowed claims
(4,364) and cancelled claims (905). Why did the Board have such a high number of
disallowed claims?


CUPE believes that the WCB must aim to reduce the number of work related injuries and
deaths. However, our members still tell us that the WCB mobilizes its resources to
assessing claims, determining benefit levels and pushing workers back to work too early
through programs like the Early Intervention Program (EIP).




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                           8
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Accident, injury and disease prevention have been given a low priority as witnessed
through the literature and actions of the WCB. There needs to be serious workplace
prevention efforts that should work with beefed up enforcement on the occupational
health and safety side.


A wise investment for the WCB – and, in turn, for the workers of Saskatchewan – would
be effective and systemic prevention programs that look at the workplace and work
organization, not the worker, as the causes of injuries. And the Workers’ Compensation
Act should be amended to include a schedule of penalties to be used against employers
who do not make effective work organization changes to reduce accident rates. All
money collected from these penalties should be directed at programs to change work
organization factors that cause workplace accidents.


If we look at back injuries we see they are still one of the leading injuries with a climbing
rate of frequency over the years. In 2005 there were 4,412 accepted claims for back
injuries, not including neck and shoulder injuries. There are a large number of CUPE
members who suffer permanent disability due to back injuries and a significant number
of those members were sent back into workplaces to the same conditions that initially
caused the injury. CUPE would like the Board to put its energy into accident prevention
through the funding of education and training delivered by the Occupational Health and
Safety Division.


Enforcement that makes non-compliance cost more than compliance is an effective way
to reduce real injury rates. Combining effective enforcement with workplace (not worker)
focused prevention always results in lower compensation costs, healthier workers and
safer workplaces. We recommend that the Workers’ Compensation Act be amended to
include a schedule of penalty assessments for irresponsible employers who do not take
immediate and effective action to reduce accident rates and improve health and safety.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          9
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That behavioural science programs, wellness and attendance management
      programs be eliminated as they actual inhibit injury prevention.
     That the Workers’ Compensation Act be amended to include a schedule of
      penalties to be used against employers who do not make effective work
      organization changes to reduce accident rates. All money collected from these
      penalties should be directed at programs to change work organization factors
      that cause workplace accidents.
     That prevention through the WCB and enforcement through the OHS Division
      must be applied together in a vigilant and consistent manner to protect the
      health of workers.


6. Compensation Issues

The WCB has consistently taken a “blame the worker” approach. This approach is
apparent by behavioural science programs, industry safety association programs, changes
in legislation and a host of other mechanisms that blame workers for injuries that are
clearly not their fault.


WorkSafe Saskatchewan has reinforced blaming the worker for injuries. For example, the
“Oh, My Aching Back” online course is filled with information about posture, anatomy
lessons and correct lifting procedures (all worker focused) but doesn’t list any workplace
or work organization causes of back injuries like stress, overwork, high repetition of
lifting motions and loads that are too heavy. This kind of education is useless to CUPE
members and other workers when it’s really the workplace and employers causing the
injuries.


In section 29 of the Workers’ Compensation Act the balance of probabilities are in favour
of the employer but should be in favour of the worker. Section 51.1 puts an onus on the
worker to mitigate costs, which, in effect, is getting the worker to do the Board’s job.
Section 50 allows pregnancy to be a pre-existing condition for musculoskeletal injuries.

Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                         10
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
How many claims have been disallowed on the basis of Section 50 over the last five
years? To stack probabilities against a worker, get injured workers to do the Board’s
work and use pregnancy as an explanation for injury, results in a continuation of blaming
the worker and diverting attention away from real problems in the workplace. This anti-
worker approach has to stop.


Safety associations take their lead from the Board and WorkSafe Saskatchewan by
putting all of their energy into blaming the worker. These associations should be
eliminated because they set an anti-worker tone throughout the labour market in
Saskatchewan. That tone has worked its way into the consciousness of public service
employers and affects CUPE members.


Look, for instance, at the “Working to ZERO” program from the Service and Hospitality
Safety Association of Saskatchewan. There is a strong blame the worker message: “The
‘ZERO-injury concept’ simply tells all employees that ‘ZERO’ is exactly what is
expected . . . all employees can use their combined skill and industry knowledge to work
extended periods of time without a lost time accident or even and incident.” This kind of
message is absurd in light of the power imbalance between employers and workers, and it
misleadingly puts the responsibility for accidents and injury on the worker. Programs like
this, and they are everywhere, do absolutely nothing to prevent injuries and only promote
hiding injuries and individualizing accidents and injuries in the workplace.


Safety associations only work to confuse the origins of workplace injuries, undermine
any real workplace education around accident and injury prevention and act as quasi
enforcement agencies with workers as their only target. What is the total cost of WCB
funding for safety associations over the last 10 years? What is the cost of the new joint
committee for all safety associations? How many injuries did safety associations prevent?




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          11
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That education programs from safety associations are useless to CUPE
      members and other workers and they must stop.
     That section 29 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is amended to clearly put
      the balance of probabilities in the worker’s favour.
     That section 51.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is amended to take the
      away the onus of the worker to mitigate costs.
     That section 50 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is amended to alleviate
      workers of any blame and penalty when it comes to pre-existing conditions.



7. WCB Administration Issues
Our members still tell us that WCB procedures and policies seem confusing. Those who
need help and have been injured face a bewildering system that is not worker-friendly,
and the concerns of employers are given greater attention than those of injured workers.
It seems as though the victims of workplace injury need to be insulted further by being
treated as suspects for injuries that are caused by employer practices.


Unfortunately, there seems to be a bias against workers so that employers can lower their
costs and shirk responsibility to provide a safe working environment. The politics of
blaming the worker and favouring employers is one of political expediency that has
massive long-term costs to the province and the health of its workers. We remind the
WCB that it is not an insurance company that works on a profit motive, rather it is
mandated to provide no-fault compensation with accountability to injured workers.


No Privatization
There has been too much privatization within the WCB and with its related services. A
publicly delivered compensation system should be fully public and focus on providing
injured workers the support they need. Rehabilitation services, including vocational
rehabilitation, should be taken out of the private realm and made public. Assessment and
rehabilitation must be provided by publicly funded health care facilities.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                        12
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Private clinics benefit nobody but the operators who get to profit from the pain of
workers. The public health care system needs to receive the funding that would be
allocated to private clinics.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the WCB oppose any moves towards privatization.
     That the WCB reverse its decision to privatize rehabilitation services.


Rates
It remains a crucial fact that a social agreement was forged between workers, employers
and government when workers’ compensation was introduced.


That social agreement must not be fractured by the financial concerns of the WCB, but
must be kept intact and secure no matter the financial state of the Board.


The lowering of premiums and the continued assessments favouring employers keeps
Saskatchewan’s WCB rates among the lowest in Canada. This situation produces an
unfair and inequitable system that shifts responsibility away from employers and the
WCB – who should be providing stability and the proper care for injured workers – to
society at large. Hiding injuries, rejecting claims and fighting appeals allows the WCB
and employers to abdicate their responsibilities to workers and forces society to fully take
on the responsibility for injured workers. With this inequity, prevention is weakened, the
chain of responsibility is weakened and the true cost of injuring workers gets hidden
within the public social safety net.


Rebate schemes that attempt to lower the overall rate simply encourage employers to
under-report injuries and further alienates employers from workers. Merit rebates also
push employers to pressure injured workers to not file claims, go on sick leave or on
long-term disability. Rebates undermine the very system of compensation that is
supposed to provide protection for workers. Rebate programs must be eliminated.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                        13
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
The practice of averaging in regional areas or within sectors has allowed certain
employers with poor accident and injury rates to hide their records and avoid surcharges.
This practice undermines prevention efforts by diverting needed enforcement and
penalties for employers who have poor records. Why has the WCB taken to the practice
of averaging? Averaging must end so that employers with poor accident and injury rates
are revealed and proper prevention measures can be aimed at those who need them most.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That compensation rates not be reduced in any way.
     That rebate programs for employers be eliminated.
     That averaging must end so that employers with poor accident and injury
      rates are revealed and proper prevention measures can be taken.


Return to Work
Return to work practices are flawed in Saskatchewan. There are too many workers going
back to work too early and too often without adequate follow-up by the WCB. The Board
needs to put in place a monitoring program to see if workers are actually doing
meaningful work, are safe and employers are properly accommodating them. Thorough
follow-up by the WCB on return to work is part of a larger picture of prevention and
healthy workplaces.


Vocational rehabilitation is too rudimentary for CUPE members. It doesn’t provide
meaningful training and doesn’t prepare injured workers for the challenges of today’s
workplaces. CUPE members see that vocational rehabilitation must improve beyond
simple lessons in fixing up a worker’s resume. As mentioned earlier, vocational
rehabilitation must be released from the grip of privatization and be publicly delivered
and administered.


It appears as though considerable resources were used to start and maintain the Early
Intervention Program (EIP) but there is not much evidence to prove that it works.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                         14
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
The purpose of the EIP is to facilitate assessment and treatment services for workers who
require additional assistance after a workplace injury but the cost to the worker and the
system seems high given the low success rate.


The WCB report, “Evaluation of Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board Early
Intervention Program, July 2005,” does nothing to assure CUPE that the EIP is working
effectively. The report recommends that, “Improvements in the completeness, quality and
validity of the WCB administrative data would greatly increase the ability to accurately
describe the true effect of the EIP.” The report reveals many gaps in executing and
raising the profile of the EIP.


The resources dedicated to the EIP should be redirected into prevention measures at the
workplace level in combination with enforcement from the Occupational Health and
Safety Division. How much has the EIP cost the WCB since its inception in 1996?


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That a monitoring program be put in place to ensure workers are doing
      meaningful and safe work.
     That the Early Intervention Program redirects its efforts to prevention
      considering EIP has not shown any degree of success.


Waiting Period
We stress to this committee that no waiting period be allowed in the WCB. Instituting
any waiting period means that even more injuries will be hidden and swept under the rug
by employers and the Board. Injured workers will be forced to use vacation, sick leave or
sickness and accident programs as they wait for compensation. The introduction of a
waiting period will disadvantage workers and warp statistics due to the fact that many
lost time claims do not go beyond three or four days.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          15
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
A waiting period of, for instance, three days would give the appearance of a low injury
rate and could further cut the slim premiums that the Board currently collects, causing
more cost cutting measures with workers’ health sacrificed as the real price of a
compromised WCB.


Take the many CUPE members who suffer from back injuries that typically last for an
average of three days. These workers would be discouraged from reporting these injuries
and that will lead to needless suffering that could be exacerbated by further injury.
Employers will save some money but the epidemic of back injuries (and injuries in
general) will continue with the cost being borne by the worker.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Board not introduce a waiting period for compensation.


Occupational Disease Recognition
Although the Board has moved slightly in terms of recognizing workplace diseases –
there were legislative amendments in 2005 that expanded coverage for firefighters
suffering from certain types of cancer and heart injuries – there have not been enough
dedicated resources and political will to acknowledge the changing nature of work and
workplace injuries. CUPE is concerned that the WCB remains too focused on visible
traumatic injuries while ignoring major occupational illnesses and long-term work related
diseases.


Too much of the onus is placed on the worker to demonstrate that their condition arose
directly from the workplace. Our members face many health risks, including soft tissue
injuries, back injuries, stress, violence, workload and toxins in the workplace. Many
members are exposed to biological hazards like infectious organisms and blood borne
pathogens.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                        16
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
As the Saskatchewan Government continues to restructure and cutback there are many
new dangerous working conditions being created. Anecdotal feedback from members and
workplace surveys show that more workers are being injured due to high workloads and
growing stress. Surveys of health care locals show that workplace stress continues to rank
as one of the most pressing and harmful workplace issues. Hazards like workload, staff
shortages, poor management practices, extra duties and unreasonable deadlines all
contribute to extremely high levels of stress. Violence and harassment plague our
members with approximately 70 per cent of health care locals reporting some form of
violence like verbal abuse and physical assaults.


A 2003 workload survey in health care showed that:
       55 to 65 per cent of workers said there is not enough staff to allow them to do
        their job in a safe manner.
       62 per cent worked unpaid time over and above their workday.
       66 per cent were not replaced for sick leave or vacations.
       63 per cent identified an increase in WCB usage over the last five years.
       Depending upon the worksite, 47 to 87 per cent cited an increase in harassment
        and violence, including intimidation by supervisors.
       70 per cent came to work sick to keep up with their work because they would not
        be replaced.
       41 per cent of workers’ physicians indicated that their symptoms were work
        related.


These results are unacceptable and the WCB should be working towards effective ways
to prevent this kind of situation.


Our members are being asked to do more work in a shorter period of time with fewer
workers. These workplace conditions are created and maintained by employers who also
demand rollbacks of entitlements to diseases like occupational stress and musculoskeletal
injuries.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                        17
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
The hypocrisy of creating poor working conditions causing injuries and then pushing for
non-recognition of those injuries is unacceptable to CUPE and to all working people.


The WCB must move to put an end to employers pushing to prevent entitlement for stress
and other diseases, such as repetitive strain injuries, while at the same time either
opposing legislation that could prevent these diseases or simply doing nothing about
them.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Board recognize occupational injuries and disease caused by stress,
      workload, violence, musculoskeletal injuries, infectious organisms and blood
      borne pathogens.
     That the Board develop a comprehensive schedule of occupational diseases.


Occupational Disease Panel
In order to properly determine the cause and effect of occupational diseases, the WCB
must create an Occupational Disease Panel, which would be financed by the Board but
operated at arm’s length with ample representation from worker and labour organizations.
The panel should provide training for occupational physicians and help the Board to
determine which occupational diseases should be compensated. The panel could work in
conjunction with other government departments and agencies, unions and progressive
health organizations to further research into workplace hazards and better our
understanding of the effects those hazards have on workers.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Board create an Occupational Disease panel operated at arm’s length.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                      18
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Occupational Health Clinic
We recommend that an occupational health clinic be established like those in Manitoba
and Ontario. The clinic would help the WCB, the OHS Division and the University of
Saskatchewan Occupational Health Clinic. Easily accessible information, research
services and assistance with workplace hazards would be the main goals of an
independent clinic. The clinic must be easily accessed by workers and perform outreach
programs to provide education about health and safety. The clinic and its services must
be publicly operated and administered.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Board establish and fund an Occupational Health Clinic separate
      from the University of Saskatchewan Occupational Health Clinic.
     That the Board make the clinic easily accessible to all workers and publicly
      operated and administered.


Role of Primary Care
The prominent role given to physiotherapists has negative implications for injured
workers. It seems the WCB privileges physiotherapists while at the same time relegates
the worker’s general practitioner and specialists to secondary caregiver status. This
practice must stop and the WCB must implement processes whereby the GP and needed
specialists are given more authority than that of physiotherapists in caring for workers.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Board give priority and support to the worker’s physician rather
      than immediately turn over authority to physiotherapists.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          19
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Appeals
The previous Committee of Review heard the recommendation that the WCB needs an
appeals commissioner and an appeals board. It is apparent that the Board spends too
much time on appeals while pressing concerns – effective workplace prevention
programs, for example – go unaddressed. The WCB needs to improve its appeals
capacity to create a fair and representative process for injured workers. There should be
an appeals commissioner who oversees an appeals board with labour and employer
representatives. This board must be completely accessible and open to injured workers.
The appeals board needs to have complete autonomy from the WCB so that decisions are
as fair and equitable as possible. The other alternative is to expand the Board to five
sitting members so that appeals can continue to be heard by the Board but in an effective
and expedient manner.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That an appeals commissioner and an appeals board be established with
      complete autonomy from the WCB.


Committee of Review Activity
This Committee of Review should act as an ongoing monitoring body over the WCB and
not be allowed to lay dormant between review hearings. That means properly funding the
Committee of Review to act on monitoring recommendations so that momentum is not
lost between hearings.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That the Committee of Review act as a monitoring body of the WCB between
      hearings.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                        20
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
8. Benefit Levels
CUPE believes that reducing benefit levels is simply taking money and support from
those who need it most and giving it to employers who are responsible for the workplace
conditions that led to injuries.


The WCB must protect workers and aim to return them to the same job they had before
the injury. They must not be penalized for being hurt on the job. We recommend that
monetary compensation be set at 100 per cent of net pre-accident earnings. All costs of
the injured worker’s benefits plans, including pension plans, must be maintained with
compensation funds. There should be no 50 per cent claw back of the CPP Disability
Pension. There should be indexing of all benefits to the cost of living. Workers need
protection while on compensation and should have coverage of Canada Pension Plan and
Employment Insurance premiums while they are collecting their workers’ compensation
benefits. Nothing should be sacrificed just because a worker had the misfortune of being
injured.


The benefit ceiling should be lifted and interest should be payable on delayed claims to
fulfill a goal of 100 per cent income replacement. Compensation income should never be
reduced to offset any payments from private insurance or collective agreement clauses
that stipulate a top-up to compensation benefits. Workers have paid for private insurance
and have negotiated top-ups not to have benefits reduced but to provide for all the
unexpected expenditures that occur when workers are injured.


Decreasing compensation for casual or part-time workers is unacceptable. Compensation
must always be based on the higher earnings of the previous 52 weeks or rate of pay.
Section 70 of the Workers’ Compensation Act must be amended to give injured workers
the highest amount of average weekly earnings as a basis for compensation.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                         21
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
CUPE continues to oppose the practice of deeming, which is a still a major problem. We
recommend the WCB reverse this unfair practice that fabricates the existence of jobs and
reduces the payment that injured workers receive. Deeming is ridiculous in that it has
workers filling pretend jobs and earning pretend wages. Progressive deeming is even
more insidious and insulting to injured workers. This practice must stop.


RECOMMENDATIONS:
     That monetary compensation be set at 100 per cent of net pre-accident
      earnings.
     That all costs of injured workers’ benefit plans, including pension plans, be
      maintained from compensation funds.
     That the 50 per cent clawback on the CPP Disability Pensions be eliminated.
     That indexing of all benefits take place.
     That there is no decrease, only an increase, to the amount of compensation
      received by casual or part-time workers.
     That the benefit ceiling be lifted and interest should be payable on delayed
      claims.
     That compensation should cover Canada Pension Plan and Employment
      Insurance premiums.
     That deeming be eliminated.


9. Conclusion
There are many other issues that could be addressed by the Committee of Review to
improve workers’ compensation in Saskatchewan. For example:
     Reviewing the role and success of the Fairness Practices Officer and legislating the
      existence and mandate of the officer.
     Publishing the names of employers who violate WCB and OHS legislation and have
      high injury and fatality rates. This practice, done in British Columbia, serves the
      purpose of alerting workers to unsafe employers and also motivates the Board to
      take action with employers who have poor safety records.


Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                          22
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
     Establishing a Workers’ Help Centre staffed by activists and advocates who can
      guide injured workers through the WCB.
     A careful look at discrimination against injured workers based on race, sex, illness,
      age, etc. Systemic discrimination needs to end at the WCB.
     Independent audits of the Internal Appeals System and the Office of the Worker’s
      Advocate to assess how they are working, not working, and how they can be
      improved.
     Improvements in enforcement of occupational health and safety legislation by
      increasing the numbers and effectiveness of government inspectors and workplace
      joint health and safety committees. Enforcement measures on the health and safety
      side will always lead to improved injury prevention.


This submission and all of the recommendations are intended to help improve the WCB
for the benefit of workers. We remind the Committee of Review to take our
recommendations in good faith. We have raised a number of questions in this brief that
are summarized on page 28 and we look forward to hearing the answers from this
committee.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                       23
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
10. Summary of Recommendations


The Saskatchewan WCB
         That injury reduction should be a goal in and of itself and compensation
          costs shouldn’t be a factor in protecting workers’ health.
         That the WCB must take on employers to prevent injuries by addressing
          acute work organization problems like: lack of training, overwork,
          privatization, conflicting work demands, lower worker to client ratios and
          downloading of management responsibilities.


State of the WCB
         That the Board stop lowering employer premiums and increase
          compensation benefits.
         That workers’ compensation maintains a strict no-fault system with
          liability in employers’ hands.


Injury Level Too High
         That wellness, attendance management and behavioural science programs
          be eliminated as they actual inhibit injury prevention.
         That the Workers’ Compensation Act be amended to include a schedule of
          penalties to be used against employers who do not make effective work
          organization changes to reduce accident rates. All money collected from
          these penalties should be directed at programs to change work organization
          factors that cause workplace accidents.
         That prevention through the WCB and enforcement through the OHS
          Division must be applied together in a vigilant and consistent manner to
          protect the health of workers.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                   24
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Compensation Issues
         That education programs from safety associations are useless to CUPE
          members and other workers and they must stop.
         That section 29 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is amended to clearly
          put the balance of probabilities in the worker’s favour.
         That section 51.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is amended to take
          away the onus of the worker to mitigate costs.
         That section 50 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is amended to alleviate
          workers of any blame and penalty when it comes to pre-existing conditions.


WCB Administration Issues
No Privatization
         That the WCB oppose any moves towards privatization.
         That the WCB reverse its decision to privatize rehabilitation services.


Rates
         That compensation rates not be reduced in any way.
         That rebate programs for employers be eliminated.
         That averaging must end so that employers with poor accident and injury
          rates are revealed and proper prevention measures can be taken.


Return to Work
         That a monitoring program be put in place to ensure workers are doing
          meaningful and safe work.
         That the Early Intervention Program redirects its efforts to prevention
          considering EIP has not shown any degree of success.


Waiting Period
         That the Board not introduce a waiting period for compensation.



Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                  25
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Occupational Disease Recognition
         That the Board recognize occupational injuries and disease caused by
          stress, workload, violence, musculoskeletal injuries, infectious organisms
          and blood borne pathogens.
         That the Board develop a comprehensive schedule of occupational diseases.


Occupational Disease Panel
         That the Board create an Occupational Disease panel operated at arm’s
          length.


Occupational Health Clinic
         That the Board establish and fund an Occupational Health Clinic separate
          from the University of Saskatchewan Occupational Health Clinic.
         That the Board make the clinic easily accessible to all workers and publicly
          operated and administered.


Role of Primary Care
         That the Board give priority and support to the worker’s physician rather
          than immediately turn over authority to physiotherapists.


Appeals
         That an appeals commissioner and an appeals board be established with
          complete autonomy from the WCB.


Committee of Review Activity
         That the Committee of Review act as a monitoring body of the WCB
          between hearings.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                     26
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Benefit Levels
         That monetary compensation be set at 100 per cent of net pre-accident
          earnings.
         That all costs of injured workers’ benefit plans, including pension plans, be
          maintained from compensation funds.
         That the 50 per cent clawback on the CPP Disability Pensions be
          eliminated.
         That indexing of all benefits take place.
         That there is no decrease, only an increase, to the amount of compensation
          received by casual or part-time workers.
         That the benefit ceiling be lifted and interest should be payable on delayed
          claims.
         That compensation should cover Canada Pension Plan and Employment
          Insurance premiums.
         That deeming be eliminated.




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                   27
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
11. Summary of Questions for the Committee of Review

      1. How does the WCB account for the lowering rate of claims acceptance and
          the high number of appeals?
      2. Has there been a change in the way the statistics are compiled and analyzed
          at the Board over the last five years?
      3. How does the Board account for the drop in time loss claims from 4.95 per
          cent in 2002 to 4.25 per cent in 2005?
      4. Why did the Board have such a high number of disallowed claims in 2005?
      5. What has WorkSafe Saskatchewan cost the WCB and how many injuries
          has it prevented?
      6. How many claims have been disallowed on the basis of Section 50 over the
          last five years?
      7. What is the total cost of WCB funding for safety associations over the last
          10 years?
      8. What is the cost of the new joint committee for all safety associations?
      9. How many injuries did safety associations prevent?
      10. Why has the WCB taken to the practice of averaging?
      11. How much has the EIP cost the WCB since its inception in 1996?




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                  28
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006
Endnotes

i
 In 1910 the Ontario Government appointed Sir William Meredith to report on workers’ compensation with
the goal of improving the system. The main principles of Meredith’s report included: collective liability
whereby all employers share responsibility for benefits to injured workers; a no fault system; the cost of
compensation is covered by premiums on employers; compensation boards have the power to enquire into
and adjust all issues as necessary; security of payment to injured workers through an accident fund; and
injured workers receive benefits based on a calculation of lost wages.
ii
  Behavioural science programs (also called behaviour-based safety programs) are based on the idea that it
is the behaviour of workers that needs to change rather than the workplace or employers. In focusing on
behaviour, these programs mislead workers and employers by individualizing systemic workplace
problems. Employers can make all sorts of attempts at changing behaviour – through workplace education
programs that ask workers to be more alert, for example – but issues like work organization factors cause
accidents – hazards like overwork and short-staffing. Behavioural science programs are a waste of time,
effort and money but, more importantly, they contribute to blaming the worker and don’t actual solve
workplace health and safety problems.




mf/cope491




Canadian Union of Public Employees                                                                      29
Submission to the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Committee of Review
September 26, 2006

								
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