British Columbia

Dozens of employer groups abandon workers compensation review, claiming bias toward unions

A collection of 46 business and employers groups have withdrawn from a review process to improve the B.C. workers compensation system, saying the review appears to be biased in favour of unions.

The assortment of employer groups claims the review appears to mirror union goals

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains says the Workers Compensation review will move forward on schedule, and he hopes the employer organizations that have abandoned the process will still offer comments. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

A collection of 46 business and employers groups have withdrawn from a provincial review process to improve the B.C. workers' compensation system, saying the review appears to be biased in favour of unions.

The group claims the scope of the review has expanded beyond its terms of reference, and now includes a list of 23 issues found in a 10-year-old report prepared about the WorkSafeBC system for the B.C. Federation of Labour.

"We just didn't want to be part of that process. These additional issues were never in the scope — within the terms of reference — and now they've been put to us and we're just not going to get engaged in that conversation," said Doug Alley, managing director of the Employers' Forum, a network of more than 80 groups that includes the 46 that have abandoned the review.

Alley wouldn't say what some of the issues in question included, but 24 recommendations in the 2009 report urge the government to:

  • Amend the Workers Compensation Act to provide for flexible establishment of wage rates that fairly reflect an injured workers earning capacity and actual economic loss.
  • Amend the Workers Compensation Act to base all benefits on 100 percent of net earnings.
  • Require the Workers Compensation Board to establish specific guidelines for compensation for permanent functional impairment for chronic pain conditions, ranging from 0 – 100 per cent.

The retired labour lawyer heading up the review, Janet Patterson, was also one of three authors of the 2009 report.

Review moving forward

According to Labour Minister Harry Bains, the loss of input from the employers who have decided not to provide further input won't stall the review.

"I think we've gone too far," said Bains, adding that more than 2,000 submissions have been made as part of the review, including about 350 from employers' groups, and 60 from unions.

"The reviewer has gone around the province; it's a very robust system that they engaged in and they have listened to everyone and this is the final stage about what they have heard during this consultation process," he said.

Both Bains and Alley agree that the system could use improving.

"I think people recognize that there are changes that have to made to get injured workers back to work sooner," said Alley, who noted that it's the employers who fund the workers compensation system.

Bains said he expects a report based on the review to be ready sometime in October, and he hopes the groups that have pulled out of the review to contribute more input.

"I hope that they will reconsider their position. I'm going to reach out to them so we can move in the right direction," he said.

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Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at


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