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Winter 2006

WCB Workers Take Action

Coalition Speaking Up For Injured Workers

From Tradetalk magazine

By Lee Colldren

How many TRADEtalk readers have heard stories about honest folks getting screwed out of their compensation benefits? How many are frustrated that the provincial government, employers and the WCB are able to get away with it.

Well, you’re not alone. Even the employees of the compensation board have decided enough’s enough.The Compensation Employees Union has launched the Public Compensation Coalition to return balance and fairness to injured workers.

The WCB has undergone massive regulatory and policy changes.

Workers’ advocates refuse to call the government body WorkSafeBC or buy into its feeble attempt at rebranding. “It’s not about ‘safe,’” said Business Agent Bryan Stocking, from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 170.

The frustration begins to show in his voice as he talks about one 62-year-old construction worker who was badly burned while working around chemicals. He lives in a remote area of the province and has not been able to find alternative work in his community. He receives just $40/month. He’s been told to move to a major centre to look for work.

Unfortunately, members of the public take little notice of the changes until they’re injured and become revictimized by the bureaucracy.Tremendous creative energy is going into developing policies to ensure fewer people receive benefits and those who are lucky enough to manoeuvre through the minefield will get a lot less. In 2002, 927 injured workers received loss of earning pensions. In 2006, just 27 were accepted.

Injured workers and advocates also have numerous horror stories to relate about the revised appeal process. Amanda Grant, coordinator of the Public Compensation Coalition, called the compensation changes “death by 1,000 cuts.”

The Compensation Employees Union is also sounding a warning about a new automated claims management system. Automation oversimplifies the process, Grant said.“It has the potential to be disastrous.”

Sandra Wright, president of the Compensation Employees Union, explained that automation is another step in the road to privatization and would decrease benefits even more.“If you look at the States [where privatization has taken hold], that system is a mess.”

The coalition campaign, which is intended to harness the energy of other unions, injury advocates, parent groups and small business owners, will spread across the country.“We’re not the only jurisdiction seeing this,” said Grant.

Wright said her members care about injured workers and are upset that they’re having to reject claims that would have been allowed in the past. “It’s more harsh now.” As a result, the union is focusing on bringing in legislative change and she remains optimistic that it’s not too late.“We can turn some of it around. It’s not fair how people are being treated.”

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