The Alberta Workers' Compensation Board rewards its staff for cutting off benefits to employees injured on the job, the provincial Liberals say.

The party's labour critic, Hugh MacDonald, demanded Wednesday the practice end immediately.

"You gotta cut people off to get your bonus — and it's wrong, it's not a commitment to fairness," MacDonald said. "The injured worker is not being treated fairly with this bonus system."


Alberta Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk says there's nothing he can do about pay bonuses for WCB staff. (CBC) ((CBC))

The Liberals say a congratulatory letter, written in February 2007, shows the WCB paid bonuses of up to eight per cent of annual salary to staff for reducing the number of long-term benefit claims.

In the letter, board president Guy Kerr says the WCB will award bonuses because staff met three goals: cutting the number of benefit claims lasting more than three months, writing better letters to injured workers and enrolling more companies in a workplace safety program.

One WCB employee was to receive $5,039 as a bonus.

A similar letter from 2005 tells a WCB employee they'll be getting a six per cent bonus, or $3,538, because the board met its key goals for the prior year: curtailing the number of injured workers' benefit claims lasting more than six months, getting more companies involved in the workplace safety program, and expediting injured workers' surgeries.

"The minister must do the right thing and halt the bonus scheme immediately," MacDonald said.

Claims down

WCB annual reports show the average claim for work lost to injury fell from 58 days in 2001 to 35 last year, the Liberals said. 

A WCB spokesperson said the bonus structure is not leading to injured workers being treated improperly.

The WCB has a good record of getting workers back into their job, Jennifer Dagsvik said, and if people were being rushed back, their rates of repeat injuries would be higher.

Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said he can't alter the bonus system because the WCB has an independent board of directors that approved it.