A new task force announced by Training and Labour minster Donald Arseneault will consist of employer and worker representatives to address problems with the province’s worker compensation system, WorkSafe NB.
“I want to force them to all get in the same room and talk it over and see how we can make WorkSafe sustainable in the future,” Arseneault said.
Chaired by Newfoundland lawyer Dennis Browne, some of the objectives of the task force are to facilitate discussion and seek input from stakeholders on how to address the recent decline of the $1.37 billion accident fund and ensure the system is transparent, accountable, predictable and sustainable in the long term.
“We will hold hearings inside the province and come up with hopefully solutions to deal with the massive dept that the program has undertaken,” Browne said.
The government is trying to find ways to reverse a recent spike in premiums that recently blindsided the province’s businesses with millions of dollars in added expenses.
“From the business perspective, the main point is really understanding what happened in the last few year to cause this rate increase, what makes it fluctuate the way it did,” said Louis Philippe Gauthier, director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. “Right now we have bit and pieces, but we want the full picture of what is happening.”
The provinces labour federation agrees that dialogue is key to finding solutions.
“Instead of having a divide and conquer mentality, it’s important that we sit in the same room and hash out our differences. I’ll be the first to admit we will never agree on everything, but if we don’t talk we will never agree on anything,” said Patrick Colford, NB Federation of Labour president.
The Gallant government has already asked the auditor general to conduct an independent value for money audit of WorkSafe NB, and expects the task force to share its findings in the next six to eight months.