WCB premium increase means employers will finally pay the real cost of workplace injuries

Employers in Alberta will soon be required to pay WCB premiums that more accurately reflect the real cost of workplace injuries - and that's a good thing, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"For years now, the WCB has been using investment income to keep premiums artificially low," says AFL president Les Steel. "As a result of this practice, the incentive for employers to maintain safe work sites has been undermined. Basically, businesses have been getting a free ride."

Steel was responding to the announcement earlier today that WCB premiums will be increased by 27.3 percent. The WCB said increases are needed to cover the cost of benefits for injured workers and keep the board in the black.

Steel says the financial crunch at the WCB was caused by the board's over-reliance on income from volatile market investments - a practice which the labour movement has criticized for years - coupled with a significant increase in workplace injury rates.

"The reality is that employers in this province are hurting more workers," says Steel. "As accident rates increase, we think premiums should also go up to reflect the real cost of claims. If employers want premiums to go down, then they should make their workplaces safer. It's as simple as that."

Despite predictable complaints from business, Steel says the premium increases are both necessary and desirable.

"For the first time in years, employers in this province are going to be responsible for covering the real cost of the injuries that occur on their worksites. We in the labour movement support this change and hope it convinces employers to take workplace health and safety more seriously."

Between 1994 and 1999, employer premiums dropped 53%, from $2.29 per $100 of insured earnings to $1.07. During the same period the only substantial change to worker benefits was to severely disabled workers. Most workers received no enhanced benefits.

Steel points out that even with the increase announced today, employer premiums are only 71% of 1994 rates. "Employers are still getting a bargain in this province," he says.

For more information call:  Les Steel, AFL President @ (780) 499-4135

- or -

Gil McGowan, AFL Communications @ (780) 483-3021

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