Bill 99 - changing the system
the following is from Critical Times, Issue #4, Feb. 1977. (Bill 99 was passed in October, 1997 and came into effect 1998)Bill 99 abandons basic principles of workers' compensation
The Workers' Compensation Board (the WCB) was created in 1915. Working people gave up the right to sue their employers if they were hurt at work, in exchange for the right to full and fair compensation. Injured workers were no longer left dependent on their families or on charity. Employers gained protection from lawsuits. It was cheaper for them to pay WCB premiums than to pay damages in lawsuits. The system attempted to treat injured workers with fairness and dignity. It was based on principles of justice and humanity.
With Bill 99 we are looking at a change in direction and principle for the workers' compensation system. What will these changes mean to working people in Ontario?
"A just compensation law ... ought to provide that the compensation should continue to be paid as long as the disability caused by the accident lasts, and the amount of compensation should have relation to the earning power of the injured workman."
1913, Sir William Meredith, founder of the workers' compensation system
(Summary of changes by passage of Bill 99)
- Bill 99 proposes to change the name to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
- Ontario becomes the only province to drop "workers"' and "compensation" from the name. Compensation drops from first priority to last.
- Most past, present, and future pensions and Future Economic Loss (FEL) Awards reduced by cuts in cost-of-living. $9.3 billion to be cut over next 17 years.
- FEL awards less secure because they will be reviewed at least every year for 6 years or more often.
- The right to appeal a decision severely limited. WCAT (Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal) no longer independent and appeal rights cut off by time limits.
- No more compensation for permanent chronic pain disabilities.
- The WCB's duty to provide vocational rehabilitation services gone.
- Benefits for future injuries based on 85% of net wages instead of 90%.
- Injured workers forced to give up privacy of some medical records.
- The WCB gains the power to cut all benefits if an injured worker does not follow its plan for medical treatment.
- As of January 1, 1997 employers saving 5% on their premiums, roughly $100 million every year.
"I am ... pleased to see the emphasis on prevention of illness and injury ... The focus of the WCB has been on compensation after the fact instead of prevention." ( Elizabeth Witmer Minister of Labour)
"How does cutting benefits prevent injuries? ... If benefit levels are cut deeply enough, some workers will continue working despite their injuries ... Injuries will not be prevented, but the statistics will look better." (Eric Tucker, Osgoode Hall Law, Professor)
"... the new Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will offer more competitive rates and will better meet the needs of employers and injured workers." (Elizabeth Witmer, Minister of Labour)
"The ... government is poised to put a system in place that will take about $15 billion directly out of the pockets of injured workers and put a great deal of that money into the pockets of employers." (Gord Wilson, Ontario Federation of Labour)
"[I am] glad somebody is finally taking action to correct a terrible situation, a bankrupt system." (Paul Nykanen, Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Canada)
"How can you be bankrupt with $8 billion in the bank? Injured workers will be bankrupt if Bill 99 is rammed through." (Karl Crevar, Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups)