New legislation is another attack on Alberta workers, which will put them at risk in more unsafe workplaces and mean less compensation for those workers hurt or killed on the job.
EDMONTON – Late yesterday afternoon, Jason Kenney’s UCP government tabled Bill 47, the so-called Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act. This omnibus bill aims to gut portions of the Workers Compensation Act and completely replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“Kenney’s new legislation will lead to more workers getting hurt or killed on the job, and if they do get hurt they will have less access to the support they’ll need as injured workers,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. “They say this bill is about red tape reduction, but it’s really just another example of the UCP putting employer profits ahead of workers’ health and safety.”
Amendments to the Workers Compensation Act include removing a legal requirement of employers to reinstate an injured worker, capping the amount an injured worker can receive, ending presumptive coverage for psychological injuries for most workers, and closing down the Fair Practices Office; the only place for most injured workers to receive support with navigating the system.
“Capping insurable earnings will mean injured workers in higher earning occupations such as construction or oil and gas will be punished by receiving less, and at the same time workers will have no guarantee they will be reinstated by their employer, if they are able to work,” said McGowan. “Removing the Fair Practices Office will mean there is no one there to help non-unionized workers navigate the complex Workers' Compensation system to ensure they receive the supports they deserve. This is a deliberate attempt to drive down costs for WCB at the expense of injured workers.”
The current Occupational Health and Safety Act will also be completely replaced by Bill 47. The UCP’s approach of replacing the whole Act, instead of simply amending it (which is the more customary approach), makes it very difficult to make comparisons and understand exactly what is being lost in terms of safety protections for workers. However, it’s clear that the most concerning proposed change is the limiting of a worker’s right to refuse unsafe work; which is a crucial lifesaving right, especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government talks about bringing back balance, but there is no balance here,” said McGowan. “The right to refuse has been crucial for workers to ensure a safe workplace during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Attacking a worker’s right to refuse unsafe work is unconscionable at any time, but doing so during the ongoing pandemic is downright dangerous.”
“With the tabling of Bill 47, it is clear that Jason Kenney and his UCP government are not on the side of working Albertans,” concluded McGowan.
Director of Communications, AFL