The NDP promised change. Prior to the election Rachel Notley was a supporter of injured workers rights I now give my thanks and respect to the Labor Minister Christina Gray and her staff.
The Government in introducing Bill 30 changes to address health and safety of workers has also recommended changes to the Alberta Workers Compensation Board Act. This is a step in the right direction and it is positive for workers covered by the Alberta Workers Compensation Board.
For several years I have continued to fight for significant changes in legislation to deaf ears in the Government and the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and its Board of Directors. Although I have questions about some of the recommendations, major changes by the Government going forward that CAN NOT be manipulated by the WCB will be; a 2 year window to appeal decisions, compensation payable with no cap on wages, and changes when a fatality of a worker occurs This means immediate payment to the family of $90772.20 and all services to widows will be equal. These changes have no open window for WCB to argue. I truly feel my years of voicing concerns in these major important areas have been addressed, although a 5 year window to appeal would have been most reasonable.
The Government will be creating a "Fair Practice Office." Does that mean the Office of the Appeals Advisors (OAA) will no
longer be on the WCB payroll and WCB pensions?
I am concerned about the rules and regulations surrounding this new office and jurisdiction of the Fair Practice office. The current flaws that were not addressed with the WCB management have now forced the Government to remove the department from the WCB. My reason for concern is that the Government has no jurisdiction over the WCB and the decisions. That is why they have a "Government relations Liaison" at the Workers Compensation Board to contact when the government has concerns. The recommendations from the Government regarding the Fair Practice office I understand will address only appeals to the Appeals Commission not internal WCB issues. The front end decisions at the WCB are the root of the errors and missed appeal issues. I will be interested in seeing the transition of the roles and the jurisdiction to address issues at the WCB level.
Injured workers going forward will still need to fight for compensation due to the culture that cannot be changed by the Government. The WCB so easily creates policy that leaves the ability to minimize financial impact on employer accounts rather adequately compensation workers.
The Alberta Government and the Minister of Labor have taken the steps to attempt to address vocational issues on claims that are related to "fake jobs" used for estimating earnings. My opinion is that this attempt will NOT be well handled at the WCB and the window to create new policies internally and limit services to help injured workers will remain the WCB focus.
Other changes to the system include recommendations for young workers compensation, termination of employment, health benefits paid by the employer for 1 year, medical panels workers right to chose from a list of WCB doctors and the Appeals Commission
There will always a reason to dispute claims decisions and benefits and services provided to injured workers. The WCB will remained a flawed system with differing opinions and loop holes to climb through.