Are the cuts being made at workers’ expense?
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is slashing employers’ average premium by about 30% across the board, the agency announced on Wednesday.
Once fully implemented, the cuts translate to $2.23bn in savings for employers. The move follows the 10% premium reduction the board has undertaken in the past few years.
The WSIB has also eliminated its unfunded liability ahead of schedule by cutting down healthcare expenses and shrinking benefits for pre-existing conditions. Unfunded liability is the projected cost of benefits – paid out in the future – which exceed the board’s currently available funds.
Tom Teahen, president of the WSIB, called the reductions an “important milestone” for the agency.
Labour groups, however, argue that the WSIB’s cuts are being made at the expense of benefits to injured workers.
In 2010, for instance, the board paid injured workers a total of $4.8bn in workers’ compensation. Fast forward to 2017: the amount was halved to $2.3bn.
“Today’s announcement of an additional cut of nearly 30% to employer premiums will further negatively affect injured workers – that far too often struggle to access the benefits to which they are entitled,” said Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which represents 54 unions and a million workers.
Workers’ comp provides a lifeline to injured workers, especially for 46% of those with permanent injuries who end up living below or near the poverty line, university studies showed.