The Alberta Federation of Labour has obtained a copy of a confidential WCB Board of Directors document outlining a list of 40 amendments to the WCB Act and Regulation the WCB wants made in the spring session of the Legislature. The list includes changes that will give the WCB power to punish workers and will lower the WCB's level of accountability to Albertans.
"I can't believe with all the controversy surrounding the WCB these days, the Board has the gall to propose even less accountability for their actions," says AFL President Audrey Cormack. "The amendments do two things: give the Board more power to punish workers arbitrarily and restrict the Auditor General and government from overseeing the activities of the Board. In short, they want more power and less accountability."
Among some housekeeping amendments, the document lists a number of changes to lower accountability, including:
- "Removing the ability of the Auditor General to oversee WCB financial affairs
- "Removing the WCB from the Financial Administration Act and the Government Accountability Act
- "Permit the WCB to 'construct, equip, maintain and operate hospitals, clinics and residence facilities' without permission from cabinet
- "Permit the WCB to set its own terms of remuneration for Directors and Board members
Other amendments give the WCB new power to cut off claimants and interfere with the independence of the appeal process:
- "Allows the 'reduction or suspension of compensation' to a worker who refuses retraining or vocational rehabilitation services
- "Gives the WCB 'the ability to obtain a judgement against a worker' for defaulted payments
- "Eliminates the ability of appeal panels to waive the 1-year limitation period when warranted
- "Introduces a new 1-year time limitation for last chance appeals to the Board of Directors
- "Allows the WCB to name itself as an 'interested party' at any appeal at the Appeals Commission
"These proposed amendments are a slap in the face to Albertans," observes Cormack. "Albertans are calling for more accountability from the Worker's Compensation system, and this Board goes in the opposite direction."
"They are also interfering with the independence of the WCB appeal system and asking for permission to bully workers even more than before by cutting off their benefits and harassing them for overpayments," Cormack adds.
"They obviously feel they are superior to any other public entity."
Oversight by the Auditor General and application of the Government Accountability Act ensure the WCB is accountable to Albertans for how it raises and spends money, notes Cormack. "The WCB wants to be answerable to no one about how it spends Albertan's money."
Cormack is also troubled by the inclusion of a section permitting WCB to build and operate its own hospitals and clinics. "This feels uneasily like WCB trying to set up its own health system outside the public Medicare system."
Cormack called on the Minister Responsible for WCB, Clint Dunford, to immediately reject the WCB's requests, and instead review what steps should be taken to make the WCB more accountable to Albertans. She has written a letter to the Minister making this request.
"The arrogance of the WCB is paralleled only by their drive to prevent any fairness or justice from entering their hallways," concludes Cormack.
NOTE: Copies of the obtained document listing the amendments are available to media by calling the AFL at (780)483-3021.
For More Information:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 483-3021(wk) 428-9367 (hm) 499-6530 (cell)