With 2010 marking the 30th anniversary of Quebec's occupational health and safety system, the Quebec Employers Council and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec are proposing a number of modifications to measures in the laws governing this area. The issues raised are substantial: the system directly affects 3.1 million Quebec workers as well as the 190,000 employers who cover the full $2.4-billion annual cost of the occupational health and safety system.
These proposals were presented on October 29 in a report submitted by the employers' consultative committee created by the two employers' associations in connection with proceedings of the Camiré working group on occupational health and safety. Established in 2008 at the request of the board of directors of the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST), this working group, chaired by Viateur Camiré, has a mandate to submit recommendations on the occupation health and safety system aimed at improving its efficiency.
"Remarkable progress has been achieved in the last few years," says Yves-Thomas Dorval, president of the Quebec Employers Council. "This includes a 29 per cent reduction in the number of cases indemnified for occupation injuries in the period from 1999 to 2008, even as the payroll for workers covered by the system rose by 19 per cent. But the current occupational health and safety system has existed for more than 30 years, and our society has changed significantly in that time. Over the years, many dysfunctions have appeared. In the 10 years from 1999 to 2008, despite a sharp reduction in the number of cases indemnified, income replacement payments rose by 69 per cent."
FranÃ§oise Bertrand, president and CEO of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, says: "The Quebec government, in partnership with employers and workers, must definitely revise the system to take account of the changes that have occurred at workplaces. With companies operating in a context of worldwide competition, they must maintain their productivity, and to achieve this they must benefit from an occupational health and safety system that is fair, efficient and competitive."
Employer recommend a more efficient and less expensive system
The recommendations suggested by the Quebec Employers Council and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec aim to make the current oh&s system less expensive and to improve its performance by correcting various problems observed over the years, especially in terms of prevention, overpayments, returning to work, medical assistance, preventive withdrawal and system management (for a detailed list of recommendations, click here). According to the two employers' associations, the suggested modifications could save the CSST tens of millions of dollars per year.
In light of what is reported by employers, tightening is required in the measures contained in two laws covering Quebec's occupational health and safety system, namely the Act respecting occupational health and safety and the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases. The terms under which these laws are applied also need to be revised. The rationale for the system's existence is not being called into question. Quebec's occupational health and safety system is seen as one of the best administered in Canada, but the changes that have occurred since it was established in the early 1980s must nonetheless be taken into account.
The Quebec Employers Council and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec plan to campaign for the government to act quickly in bringing in-depth reforms to the occupational health and safety system.
The brief from the employers' consultative committee is available on the website of the Quebec Employers Council.
The Quebec Employers Council brings together many of Quebec's largest companies and the vast majority of sector-based employers' groups, making it Quebec's sole employers' confederation.
With its extensive network of 154 chambers of commerce, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ) represents more than 40,000 companies and 100,000 business people operating in every economic sector throughout Quebec. La FCCQ is a keen defender of its members' public policy interests, favouring an innovative and competitive business environment.