WorkSafeNB decisions are repeatedly violating the New Brunswick Workers Compensation Act, giving the impression that the economic interests of employers trump workers' rights, says the chair of the appeals tribunal.
Ronald Gaffney, a Fredericton lawyer who's been managing the WorkSafeNB appeals tribunal since 2009, said they are evaluating a record number of appeals — 800 cases a year.
About 90 per cent of denials get overturned when they go to the appeals level.
Gaffney said WorkSafeNB has been clawing back benefits when a client receives a pension, even though a court ruling said that is not legitimate.
The agency also stops payments for a job injury if the client runs into a health problem that doesn't relate to their job, he said.
'There are some people who see it basically as an insurance system and an insurance company.' —Ronald Gaffney
"WorkSafe has no authority to do that. We've told the commission that, but we continue to get cases involving that," said Gaffney.
Gaffney said there's nothing wrong with the appeals board and sometimes he feels scapegoated for the discrepancy.
He said the tribunal is making decisions to the right standard and that nine times out of 10, the judicial system — the New Brunswick Court of Appeal — concurs with the decisions.
Gaffney said it may be a problem at the workers' compensation level.
"I personally see one philosophical problem. There are some people, and it may well be that their view is correct — although the court of appeal has disagreed with this approach — but see it basically as an insurance system and an insurance company. And that the employers of the province who pay the assessments are the shareholders. And, you know, they are very sensitive to that," said Gaffney.
An audit is being done to determine whether the appeals process could be shorter, said Gaffney, But he said he is worried that it will slide into some kind of effort to tamper with their mandate.