Workers' Compensation system said to be in crisis

Newfoundland employers pay the highest premiums in the country for workers' compensation, but injured workers get the lowest payout.

To add insult to injury, as it were, the Workers' Compensation Commission is heavily in debt. The commission is now traveling the province looking for advice on how to fix the problems.

Officials of the Corner Brook paper mill brought their concerns to the panel reviewing the system. The mill is a lot safer work place today than it was 10 years ago.

Roy Foster says there are a lot fewer accidents, but the mill is paying a lot more to commission.

"The Workers' Compensation system is in crisis in this province."

Injured workers also have concerns. They say they get the lowest benefits in the country. Ron Jesso says they have problems just getting those benefits.

"You have to wonder if it can get any crueler than it is. We're hoping if anything, that it will clean itself up and it will get better for everybody."

Pauline Tessier of the injured workers association had only scathing criticism for the commission and the people who work there.

"Injured workers and their families are the most vulnerable under this present system. We have little or no say in our treatment or in our rehabilitation. We have case managers who are overruling our doctors, specialists, chiropractors, physios, etc. Therefore, sending even more workers to the poorhouse. All we receive are threats of being cut off if we don't do as our case manager insists."

Wayne Trask is the new head of the workers' compensation commission. It's his job to fix the problems.

"It's definitely fixable.The question is, how do you go at it."

The review panel has a month to write its report.