Written by: Joud Arjour
On the 14th of August, the British Columbia government passed Bill 23, which made a large number of amendments, 34 precisely, to the Workers Compensation Act. Some of the more important changes include increasing the maximum insurable earnings from $87,100 to $100,000 for 2021, allowing WorkSafeBC to attain search and seizure warrants if they believe that an offense under the Act or is (or was) being committed, placing liability on corporate directors for unpaid WorkSafe BC premiums, and enabling WorkSafeBC to provide medical treatment before a claim is accepted. While all of the above have already come into effect, there are a couple of amendments that are not, until Jan 1, 2021, such as determining a worker’s retirement age after the worker has reached age 63.
The Bill has caused mixed reactions in the B.C community. Trade unions are happy with the changes to the Workers’ Compensation system, claiming that it restores balance between employers and workers with compromises the whole industry can accept. Andrew Mercier, director of BC Building Trades , a Labor Union in New Westminster, praises the Bill. ‘’These changes… are hugely significant and, in many ways, help right the balance.’’ While Mercier believes that there are other changes that must be made, such as indexing Workers’ Compensation pensions to the CPI, he thinks the changes are a good start. ‘’Any way you cut it, these are positive reforms and the most positive changes we have seen in 20 years,” Mercier said.
However, many businesses and associations are not pleased with the changes, citing costs as the main reason. For example, the Electrical Contractors Association of British Columbia (ECABC) released a statement expressing their concern, claiming the bill may increase costs to the workers’ compensation system, which would eventually result in increased employer premiums paid by their members. President of the ECABC Deborah Cahill even reached out to B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains, penning a letter with her concerns, stating ‘’Now is not an appropriate time to be increasing costs on businesses”. Other associations, including the ICB, COCA, ACEC, and UDI, also wrote a letter of their own to government officials, citing similar reasons. ‘’These added costs will impact businesses of all sizes, and their ability to restart, rehire, and contemplate new investment in the province. Ultimately, additional costs through Bill 23 will harm people from all walks of life who have lost, or are on the brink of losing, their livelihoods.’’, reads a part of the letter. It is not to say that the heads of these associations strongly oppose any change to the system. For example, Dave Baspaly, the president of COCA, is not against making changes to the system, but he does not feel that revamping the entire system is necessary. ‘’We need a system that is fair for both sides and meets the needs for both parties.’’ ,says Baspaly.
Written by: Joud Arjour