The Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council applauds the provincial government’s announced reduction in employer premiums for workers’ compensation, but says more needs to be done to fix the provincial system.
Richard Alexander, the council’s executive director, said Monday that the council estimates the announced changes — the average employer premium will drop by 30 cents to $2.45 for $100 of payroll in 2014 — will save the province about $18 million a year, which Alexander said will make employers better able to boost employment and wages.
But he’s concerned about the sustainability of the increase, as well as other problems.
“This change the government has made moves our system out of last place (most expensive) into second-last place,” he said. “That’s still not good enough. That’s still not competitive. Government needs to put in place legislation that provides the commission with the tools to be able to control costs.”
Chief among contributions to costs, said Alexander, is that the average duration of a workers’ comp claim in Newfoundland and Labrador is 122 days, nearly double the Canadian average of 65 days.
“There’s nothing in this announcement that will deal with that significant cost-driving problem in our system,” he said, adding that the council is also concerned about the increase in the announced increase in the maximum compensable and assessable earnings by more than $6,000 to $60,760.
“We need government to take action, legislative action.”
The St. John’s Board of Trade has also decried what it called the province’s “fragmented” approach to changes to the system.
But Dan Crummell, the provincial minister responsible for the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission, said the changes to the premiums reflect the sustainability of the commission’s injury fund, comprising premiums paid by employers through their assessments.
“The injury fund is in very good shape,” said Crummell. “Now is the time we feel that employers deserve a break, and the fund can afford that break.”
As for keeping costs down, Crummell said, the number of compensation claims in the province is decreasing every year. “Workplaces are safer,” he said.
“The number of injured workers is on the decline.”
The government’s concerned about the length of claims, said Crummell, who noted that the government just finished a statutory review of the system, and he expects to see the review report early in the new year.