WorkSafeNB is a 'good news story,' says CEO
90% of benefit denials overturned due to interpretation errors, says Gerard Adams
Injured workers in this province get some of the best treatment in the country, says WorkSafeNB's CEO, despite growing assertions that the organization is denying people the treatment and medicine they need to recover.
Gerard Adams, president and CEO of WorkSafeNB for just over a year, said nothing is wrong with the system and all the numbers are moving in the right direction.
New Brunswick has one of the lowest accident rates in Canada and one of the highest success rates when it comes to getting injured workers back on the job, he said.
"There are certainly going to always be issues. Everybody is never going to be happy, obviously. That's just the nature of the business. It's unfortunate, but it is a reality. So I think you need to put that in perspective," said Adams.
"In a very general, and very real sense, WorkSafeNB is a good news story for New Brunswickers. And we are contributing to people's ability to get back to work. And that's the most important thing when you're looking at that 96.5 per cent figure of people who get back to work and they can maintain their lives the way they were. And we try the best we can to help all of those who can't."
Meanwhile doctors and clients are saying that they're being unjustly denied benefits by WorksafeNB.
About 90 per cent of denials get overturned when they go to the appeals level.
Adams suggested to CBC News that so many decisions are overturned because the appeals tribunal is not interpreting the rules and the process accurately.
He also said that the people who are denied, and the people making these complaints, are a minority, that the vast majority of cases that come before WorksafeNB proceed through the system without a hitch.
The agency has a $1.3-billion investment portfolio that's brought nearly eight per cent returns this year. It is now overfunded.
In theory, it would be possible to increase benefits, said Adams.
But over the past four years, the agency has chosen to cut employer premiums, which he said have saved New Brunswick employers $56 million.
"That's good news for everybody. It's good news for the employers, certainly. But even from the labour movement's point of view. That money can allow those employers to expand their operations, to hire more people, to pay more to their existing staff. All those flexibilities exist, because they're paying less in workers compensation," said Adams.
"It's also a competitive advantage for a business that wants to set up in New Brunswick vis-a-vis setting up in a province where the rates are higher."
Adams said that's not a political statement, that he has no party affiliation.
A decision on whether to hike benefits or cut rates won't be made for another six months and it will be made at the board level, where workers and employers are equally represented, he said.