Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is moving forward with a Funding Review to ensure the long-term financial stability of the WSIB. The review will be chaired by Professor Harry Arthurs, former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and president emeritus of York University.
The year-long funding review will gather expert advice and input from workers, labour and employers on a range of public policy issues relating to the WSIB’s financial future including a plan on how to eliminate the WSIB’s unfunded liability. Professor Arthurs will have a small committee provide expert advice as the review proceeds. Members of the Advisory Committee include Maureen Farrow, Buzz Hargrove, John O’Grady and John Tory. More details can be found on the WSIB’s website at www.wsib.on.ca.
In support of this objective Ontario also intends to introduce legislation that would require the WSIB to be fully funded as well as clarify and strengthen the independence of the WSIB as an arms length agency.
If passed, the legislation would require the long-term elimination of the WSIB's unfunded liability to ensure fair benefits for workers and the eventual reduction of employer insurance premiums.
A fully funded model, and how that is defined, would be required on a date set in regulation and would be informed by the results of the WSIB consultation. Six of Canada's provinces now have fully funded models of compensation, with five of them required by legislation to be fully funded.
The legislation would, if passed, address issues raised in the 2009 Annual Report of the Auditor General of Ontario
Premiums increase by 2%
To provide business with certainty and stability during the course of these consultations, and in order to help slow the growth of the WSIB’s projected unfunded liability (UFL), the average premium rate will increase by two per cent for 2011 and 2012.
The UFL is the difference between the total cost of claims in the system and the funds in the system to pay for them. It has increased due to insufficient premium revenue, rising claims and health care costs and declining investment returns following the recent economic downturn. Currently the WSIB’s projected UFL is more than $12 billion.
The WSIB is also making a number of internal administrative changes that will address the UFL while improving customer service and operational efficiency. This includes a Value for Money Audit of the claims and adjudication process. These actions, along with the modest premium rate increases, will assist in balancing annual revenue with claim costs.
“We are taking important steps in ensuring that the workplace safety and insurance system is financially stable now and for future workers and employers,” says WSIB president and CEO David Marshall. “These steps, along with our continuing commitment to accountability and fiscal responsibility, will steer us toward our goal of achieving full funding, while preserving workers benefits and ultimately lowering employer premiums.”
The average premium rate will rise from $2.30 to $2.35 for every $100 of insurable earnings in 2011 and to $2.40 in 2012. This is well below the average premium rate of $3.00 in the mid 1990’s. The increase is being applied to the average premium rate, meaning more than half of registered employers will see little to no increase, while other employers in high-risk industries with a history of costly injury claims may see increases of more than two per cent. Employers with good safety records will continue to be eligible for rebates under the WSIB’s incentive programs.
CAW commends inclusion of labour on WSIB Funding Review Panel
Labour's participation in the newly formed WSIB funding review panel is a strong step forward for injured workers, says the CAW.
"This is an important step in strengthening WSIB funding so we will never be in the situation where injured workers will see their benefits reduced," says CAW national president Ken Lewenza. "Injured workers should never have to worry about having their benefits cut because of an unfunded liability.
"It's significant that labour has been included in this important panel, so that we can collectively move forward and find solutions. I can think of no better representative than Buzz Hargrove."