After nearly two years of on-again, off-again support for a major review of old WCB cases, the government has finally agreed to open the books on previously rejected claims covering thousands of injured workers.
"This is clearly a victory for all those workers who have been unfairly denied benefits," says AFL president Les Steel.
"But given the government's track record on this issue, we can't assume it's a done deal. We need to watch them like hawks and make sure they don't try to wiggle out of the commitment they've made to injured workers."
The provincial government first announced a major package of reforms to the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) two years ago. Establishing a tribunal to review old cases was a major part of those reforms - but the idea was shelved by Human Resources Minister Clint Dunford as a result of intense lobbying from business.
Even though the government has finally agreed to do what it promised to do two years ago, Steel says he's still worried that the business community and reluctant members of the Tory cabinet will find a way to make the tribunal a "toothless tiger."
"At one point, the minister suggested that the tribunal could make decisions without offering cash awards," says Steel. "The idea was that injured workers would get the satisfaction of knowing they were right, but they wouldn't get any real financial compensation for their injuries. It's those kinds of ineffective half-measures that we still have to guard against."
Steel says appointments to the new tribunal will also be crucial - and he thinks the process will be a sham if injured workers and the labour movement aren't given some say in who sits on the panel.
"There are a lot of people in the business community who don't want this panel to do its job," says Steel. "If some of those people are appointed to the tribunal, then the whole process will be a farce. That's why we want a say in appointments."
For more information call:
Les Steel, AFL President @ 780-499-4135 (cell)
Gil McGowan AFL Communications @ 780-910-1137 (cell)