BC Liberals want to trim WorkSafeBC surplus

Small business group says it's overfunded, BCFed president calls Shirley Bond announcement 'outrageous'

WorkSafeBC charges employers insurance premiums to finance benefits paid to injured workers.

A re-elected BC Liberal government will put a cap on WorkSafeBC’s surplus premiums and return excess funds to employers who pay into the agency’s injury fund, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond says.

Bond said Wednesday she doesn’t have a figure yet on how much money WorkSafeBC should have on hand in its accident fund, but an analysis will be done by June. A policy would be set when the legislature sits after the election.

“We believe the best place that additional funds for employers would be in their businesses,” Bond said. “So as we see the surplus in the accident fund increasing, we want to be sure there is a mechanism of policy and explicit direction that at a particular point there would be a return of funds to employers in British Columbia.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has been pushing for the policy, citing similar measures in Alberta and Saskatchewan. CFIB says that by 2015, WorkSafeBC’s assets exceeded liabilities by $4.5 billion, making the fund nearly 40 per cent “overfunded.”

“Small business owners care deeply about their employees’ safety and understand the importance of WorkSafeBC being adequately funded,” CFIB vice-president for B.C. and Alberta Richard Truscott said in a statement. “However, being significantly overfunded is unfair to employers.”

Truscott said CFIB has met with WorkSafeBC multiple times on the issue and delivered petitions supported by 1,700 small business owners.

BC Federation of Labour president Irene Lanzinger called the proposal “an outrageous political move” at a time when more needs to be done to ensure worker safety.

“The money that the government and employers are appropriating should instead be used to improve benefits for workers killed an injured on the job that were slashed by the BC Liberals,” Lanzinger said.

WorkSafeBC reports that the provincial injury rates have been declining in recent years. Base premium rates for employers were increased in 2013 and 2014.