The Workers Compensation Puzzle!

FTLComm - Tisdale - February 6, 2001

to light

Although that is the same sky the covers and envelops us all it seems that the perspective and interpretation of what we see and experience can vary considerably. This page today is intended to bring to light some curious questions about the Workers Compensation Board's function.



rash of

Since the provincial election there has been a gradual change of attitude within the Regina office of the Workers Compensation Board. Though the hard line they have taken in the past is not showing any particular signs of relenting there appears to be some fundamental changes occurring The most notable one is that there has been a rash of firings in the past two weeks as members of the two hundred or so staff are being let go with reasons being cited that these workers are not in step with the goals of the operation. Though one might suggest this is a positive move all of the firings have involved mid management or lower people and those who set the course and supervised the most autocratic and abusive practices are remaining in their roles. There are no reported changes to the board itself.




The minister of labour, Joanne Crofford will be leaving this portfolio when Mr. Calvert announces his cabinet shuffle so there is indications that she and her staff are trying to clear the decks of some of the issues they have been attempting to deal with. But this has brought forth even more unsettling news.




Perhaps some people who are familiar with the operation of the present provincial government will not find this surprising but it was just learned last week that correspondence from complaining injured workers or other constituents when sent to the minister of labour's office are merely forwarded to the Workers Compensation Board where the answer is written then the finished letter is sent back to the minister's office for her signature. There are reports that this practice is standard operation in almost all government departments including that of health. You will recall that government adamantly maintains that the Workers Compensation Board and the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organisations are "arms-length" entities and that the minister merely supervises them. It would appear that this is simply not true.




This morning on CBC radio, both national and local programmes carried extensive coverage of the high levels of cancer among fire fighters nation wide. The report indicated that in Ontario fire fighters have successfully placed claims with Workers Compensation for the tragic illnesses they are incurring largely caused by dangerous chemicals found in modern fires. However, here in Saskatchewan all such claims have been denied and the Board has refused to consider any evidence presented by fire fighter's organisations.



American association

The International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions is an American association of the various Worker Compensation Boards of various states. This organisation appears to exist so that these state boards can coordinate their coverage and response to complaints claims and demands. What is odd about this is that Saskatchewan has a member on this organisation's executive, it is the only Canadian province to participate in the organisation and seems from the minutes of their meetings to play a very active role. This is a really difficult puzzle to understand because of the truly great difference in Canadian and American health conditions with private medical services in the US and public health in Canada one wonders just what common advantage would be had by being part of this American association.




The function of the Workers Compensation Board remains a mystery, amidst staggering numbers of complaints suggesting that it is clearly separate from the mandate set out in provincial legislation and allowed for years to select what ever course of action it chooses as it has bragged of its frugality to the business community instead of paying out the money it collects while at the same time amassing a prodigious amount of money (over eighty million each year) Refusing to accept the rulings of the Human Rights Commission, and dodging every attempt by the provincial auditor's office to go over its handling of massive amounts of funds. During the Romanow years the WCB has increased its staff considerably as it shifted more and more of its emphasis on investigating possible fraud, though never having prosecuted a single possible cheater and there are repeated and substantiated accusations that the agency is dedicating most of its efforts to not paying claims rather then looking after injured workers.
  Timothy W. Shire