Angry labour leaders confronting WorkSafeNB CEO

Labour leaders say WorkSafeNB is not honouring the Workers Compensation Act and are meeting with the agency's CEO Friday night to make their case.

Agency accused of ignoring Workers Compensation Act

Labour leaders who say WorkSafeNB is not honouring the Workers Compensation Act are meeting with the agency's CEO next month to make their case.

The leaders say too many workers are having their claim rejected. As evidence, they point out that of the 800 cases heard each year by the independent appeals tribunal, 90 per cent are decided in favour of the injured worker.

Labour groups says that shows something is broken at WorkSafeNB and needs to be fixed. Gerard Adams, the president and chief executive officer, is expected to attend the meeting.

"Our biggest concern is with the number of appeals in a year," said Ron Oldfield.

He's one of the labour leaders speaking on behalf on 70,000 unionized employees.  

"The appeals tribunal is consistently ruling in favour of the claimant. So obviously, we feel the policies are inconsistent with the legislation," he added.

Unions weaker today

Abel Leblanc is a former Liberal MLA and former labour leader. He said unions must hold WorkSafeNB accountable.

"Are we as powerful as we were back in the early 90s? No, we're not. How much less powerful? I would say basically, with the inexperience of some of the labour leaders, probably 50 per cent," he said.

WorkSafeNB used to target heavy industry to improve safety standards, but more recently it has focused on supermarkets and nursing care facilities.

Leblanc said unions voices may be weaker in those areas and the workers themselves more easily left behind.

"One time, the longshoremen were one of the most high-rated people to get hurt. Not today. Any woman or any orderly who works in a nursing home, a hospital, is more likely to get hurt. There are less safety measures in those places," he said.

WorkSafe NB's board of directors did not respond to interview requests. The Alward government appointed Sharon Tucker, a defeated PC candidate, chairwoman of the organization in 2010. It's not known if she will be at the meeting.

On Thursday, CBC News reported on a commissioned officer in the merchant marines who is suing WorkSafeNB for abuse of process in connection with an injury he suffered more than 26 years ago.

Earlier in the week a doctor complained that WorkSafeNB was ignoring his advice. A second doctor called WorkSafeNB's practices a human rights issue.

The two sides will meet April 9.