Employers, workers urge Alberta government to release WCB review
'We have heard there will be significant financial implications but we don't know that for sure'
A group representing employers in Alberta is urging the province to release a report outlining what could be dramatic changes to the Workers Compensation Board.
The Industry Task Force Association, whose member companies pay more than 60 per cent of the premiums collected by the WCB, is convinced the report has been in the hands of the Alberta government for weeks.
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"It could be that they're costing some of the recommendations, because we have heard there will be significant financial implications but we don't know that for sure," Goroniuk said.
Labour Minister Christina Gray said cabinet has not yet received the final report from a three-person panel that has been reviewing the WCB for more than a year.
The WCB review panel was appointed in March 2016 to examine a broad range of issues from the claims process, benefits appeal process, and how the board is funded and operates.
In its November progress report, the panel indicated the final report would be delivered to government in the spring.
Cabinet saw only draft reports
Gray said cabinet doesn't have the final report, but has seen drafts.
"It's that final report that we need in order to take next steps and be able to talk to Albertans," said Gray, who added that will be "very, very soon."
Wildrose labour critic and Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken says he finds it concerning that the minister has been given drafts of the report.
"That didn't seem quite right to me," said van Dijken.
"It seems like it leaves the door open for possible interference [by the minister] into the report," he added.
The Alberta government was sharply criticized earlier this month for withholding a damning report into its handling of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
The Wildrose points to the delay in releasing that report, and hopes the WCB report doesn't turn out to be the same thing.
"Now spring is over and here we go, we still don't see it," said van Dijken.
Goroniuk says changes to the range of benefits covered by the WCB could result in considerable cost increases for employers.
Meanwhile, the delay of the report is already having an impact on employers.
At its annual general meeting June 13, WCB president and CEO Guy Kerr fielded pointed questions from industry-led organizations upset with a board decision in April not to reimburse $350 million in surplus premiums to business members.
"Was any of the decision based on information that's been provided from the WCB review report or from a government directive?" asked ITF Association member Mark Kondro.
Kerr said the board decided to defer distributing the surplus, until they see the report.
Goroniuk said those payments can reach $1 million a year for larger employers.
The ITF has been pressing the panel and government to consult with all stakeholders before any decisions are made on what recommendations to adopt from the report.
"We want to make sure any changes do benefit both workers as well as employers," Goroniuk said.
Injured workers want report released
Groups representing injured workers are also the pressing the government to release the report.
The Canadian Injured Workers Alliance said that over the years, the WCB has strayed from the principles of compensating workers in exchange for the right to sue their employers.
National coordinator Bill Chedore said over the past 15 years the system has been tilted in favor of employers who want to keep premiums low.
"In the past when you were hurt on the job because of a workplace circumstance, there was no doubt that you were going to be compensated, that's not always the case now."
He says for many claimants, the process has turned into a fight.