WORKERS COMPENSATION BOARD WEBSITE
Workers Compensation Coverage School Divisions
CUPE Manitoba, with a provincial membership of 24,000 represents 4,000 school division employees in the province. Our membership is primarily drawn from the support staff in school divisionscustodians, trades and maintenance persons, bus drivers and secretariesbut we represent educational assistants, clerical workers, technicians and para-professionals as well. CUPE also has vast experience representing education employees in every province of the country, where we have approximately 100,000 members. We want again to bring your attention to an anomaly in Workers Compensation coverage in the school board sector in Manitoba: the Act only extends to schools divisions if the divisions volunteer to be covered. As a result of this gap, many school division workers are not covered by the Workers Compensation Act. Members of CUPE Local 3573, who work in SD #17, Red River, are not covered. This group includes custodians, secretaries and library technicians. Similarly, members of CUPE Local 3254, in Hanover SD #15, who include bus drivers, custodians, teachers assistants and secretaries, have no Workers Compensation coverage. As well, there are an undetermined number of non-unionized school division employees who lack coverage. Our experience in Manitoba has been that some school divisions will not voluntarily request that their employees be covered by the Act: they have to be persuaded to do so during collective bargaining, as we were able to accomplish for our members in St. Boniface when it merged with Norwood School Division. As far as we are aware, Manitoba schools division workers are the only school board workers in the country who lack basic Workers Compensation coverage. Whatever the rationale was in the past for making Workers Compensation coverage for school division employees voluntary, there are compelling arguments why this situation should not be allowed to continue. For one, as was just mentioned, Manitoba is the only province in Canada which doesnt extend Workers Compensation coverage automatically to all school division employees. We believe Manitoba should take the lead on workplace health and safety issues, not lag behind the rest of the country. Perhaps a more compelling reason is the changes that have occurred over time to the nature of the work that our members perform, and the potential dangers these changes pose. These include: Cost-saving measures implemented in the 1990s have reduced the number of school board support staff. Those that remain face increased workloads, intensified schedules, and the additional stress that accompanies work intensification; The increased use of cleaning chemicals and heavy equipment, for which adequate training is not always supplied; The extensive exposure to video display terminals and the repetitive strain injuries faced by clerical, secretarial and technological staff; The changing nature of the school population. With the increase of gang activity, especially in urban centres, violence in the workplace has become an issue for our members. As well, we would like to point out the fact that the average age of school board support staff has been increasing. Unionized, public sector jobs are relatively good jobs in todays economy, paying higher wages and offering better benefits than comparable private sector employment. As a result, there is less employee turnover than might otherwise occur, and the workforce is ageing. Older workers are more susceptible to injuries than younger ones. In conclusion, we believe that our recommendation could be easily accomplished, if the will exists. We do not find it acceptable that Workers Compensation coverage be dealt with in bargaining, where trade-offs might be sought by employers in exchange for coverage. For the sake of our members in school divisions, and for all unorganized workers in the sector, we urge you to consider this matter in the most expeditious manner to achieve this urgent reform.
Submitted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Insurance spy stalks injured worker, family Investigator for Workers Compensation recorded activities of husband, children
Sun, Dec 2, 2001
By Carol Sanders
IS Big Brother watching your home? If someone in your family has filed a claim with the Workers Compensation Board or Manitoba Public Insurance, smile -- there's a chance you'll be on not-so-candid camera. John Staples isn't smiling, though. His comings and goings were documented this summer by a private investigator hired to watch his wife, who's battling Workers Compensation Board. The information was handed over to her employer. "It's just scary," he said. The federal privacy commissioner and a Winnipeg law professor say things could get scarier with new anti-terrorism legislation before the Senate. In Staples' case, transcripts from the WCB investigation of his wife noted his movements around the house -- when, for example, he and a friend had a case of beer and spent an afternoon working on a car in the Staples' garage. The investigator reported on the time Staples came home for lunch, driving his employer's vehicle, and how long he stayed. The Staples children were also videotaped -- shopping in Polo Park and coming home from a date. "They have a right to follow me," said Michelle Staples, who was employed by the Winnipeg One School Division when she hurt her back at work three years ago. But Staples said she's upset that the camera followed her and her three children on shopping trips and documented her husband's comings and goings from their Point Douglas home. She obtained copies of the surveillance video and report that were passed on to her former employer. "They infringed on my rights," said John Staples, adding he's complained to his MLA, MP, and the school board but no one has listened. "A lot of things done by the state invade people's privacy," said University of Manitoba law professor and former provincial attorney general Roland Penner. With new anti-terrorism legislation in the works, he expects privacy concerns will rise as the state takes advantage of expanded powers to probe into people's personal lives. Federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski was reported to be meeting with senior government officials last week over his concerns about the proposed legislation. He wouldn't discuss details, but said he would go public with his concerns if they weren't addressed. Penner said people caught up in a broad surveillance net like John Staples may feel their rights are being trampled, but if the authorities are not breaking any provincial or federal statutes, there's little an individual can do. "I doubt if it's a make-able case," said Penner. "That's the system," said Pete Walker, health and safety officer with the Manitoba Federation of Labour. As long as the surveillance takes place in public -- at the mall, across the street from your home -- nothing illegal is taking place, he said. "It invades the privacy of a lot of people," said Walker. The Workers Compensation Board says it's within its rights to keep tabs on people in a public place. Spokesman Don McDonald said surveillance is not done randomly. McDonald said they've only had two complaints about surveillance in 11 years. "An employer is going to fight compensation claims," said Walker. "That's why they are videotaping this." The stakes are high. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that 10 to 15 per cent of insurance costs are associated with exaggerated or fraudulent claims. Winnipeg School Division paid $712,660 a year in WCB premiums last year, said Eugene Gerbasi, head of human resources. Gerbasi said the division has never conducted any kind of surveillance on employees claiming Workers Compensation -- that's the WCB's responsibility. Manitoba Public Insurance, which conducted close to 200 surveillance operations last year, saved $3.2 million in 1999 by going after cheats, according to spokesman Brian Smiley. Walker at the MFL said surveillance that collects information on everyone who comes and goes from the home of a person under investigation sends a message to that person's co-workers. "It has a very chilling effect on everyone that works there -- that the employer will hound them," said Walker. John Staples said he hadn't thought much about it until he saw a copy of the WCB surveillance report and videotape that chronicled so much of his activities. "I was appalled," said Staples, who is complaining to the provincial Ombudsman. "It's about accountability," he said. "Somebody infringed on my bloody rights. I don't live in China or the former Soviet Union. . .He didn't have the right to videotape my day-to-day activities." Provincial Ombudsman Barry Tuckett says complaints are on the rise. In 1999, Ombudsman access and privacy staff investigated 159 complaints, an increase of 35 per cent over the previous year. "Most people don't spend a great deal of time thinking about the importance of accessing information or protecting their privacy until they become involved in a situation where they feel their rights have been violated," Tuckett wrote in his latest report. Tuckett said there are many avenues of appeal for people who have a problem with the bureaucracy. He hears from those who've hit a dead end. "Mainly, people want to be heard," Tuckett said. "They want somebody to hear their problems and they want an answer even if they don't agree," he said. firstname.lastname@example.org