In April of this year, the government announced a WorkSafeBC review aimed at examining the policies and practices that are currently in place to support a worker’s return to work following an injury.
A review of something as important as the workers’ compensation system in B.C. is generally not a cause for concern. However, in mid-August, 46 provincial business organizations wrote a letter backing out of the WorkSafeBC review in an unprecedented move, citing a loss of confidence in the process.
The concerns of the business organizations stem from the appointed reviewer and the broad focus of the review itself. Retired labour lawyer Janet Patterson has been selected to lead the review — a notable choice considering that Patterson conducted a review of WorkSafeBC in 2009 that was commissioned by the BC Federation of Labour. It appears that the focus of the current review is based heavily on the previous report’s recommendations, of which all but one are included in the current review.
This is a serious problem and, I would argue, a legitimate reason to worry that the review will not be carried out in an independent, impartial and balanced manner. How could it be anything but biased if the person who will be conducting the review has previously published a report in which she already has reached conclusions and made recommendations?
Additionally troubling is the fact that employers had no role in the process, their inclusion in the review being mainly for show while their opinions were ignored.
Unfortunately, this kind of bias is par for the course with the current government. Not only have they been repeatedly shown to favour a select group of hand-picked unions, but they have also consistently demonstrated a lack of support for B.C. businesses. From raising and introducing new taxes, to Community Benefits Agreements that exclude 85 per cent of construction workers in B.C., to a string of biased reviews and investigations that are more smoke and mirrors than actual consultation, this government has made life more difficult for B.C. businesses and shut out their voices whenever possible.
A review of the workers compensation system could yield positive results; it simply must be done in an impartial and balanced manner that looks at the needs of individuals and businesses.
We need genuine consultation with workers and their employers to achieve an effective review of WorkSafeBC, not an empty exercise with its outcomes pre-determined by political considerations.