Andrew Pariser / RESCON
Last spring, RESCON updated members that the WSIB’s Unfunded Liability (UFL) had been reduced to around $4 billion. Now, in the spring of 2018, improvements continue and it is much closer to zero than it has ever been before. This means the once overly optimistic goal of zero UFL is very attainable, something not everyone was convinced would ever happen.
This means two things need to happen. First, a warm and hearty congratulations to the WSIB and its leadership including, but not limited to Tom Teahen (president and CEO), Elizabeth Witmer (chair) and David Marshall (former chair and CEO) for all of the ongoing work and dedication. The WSIB was created to support workers injured on the job and provide workers and employers with fast, accessible service and benefits at a fair price. This is a tremendous step forward in that direction and the WSIB deserves to be celebrated for their efforts on behalf of all Ontario workers and employers.
Second, we need to continue to look forward to understand how the future of work is changing and ensure the WSIB as outlined in its mandate above, continues to work for workers and set fair prices for insurance. A main early step in that process will involve the creation of supplementary fund which was also written about in this space last spring.
The best information available in 2017 suggested that the WSIB had prepared a jurisdictional scan and concluded that the vast majority of workplace insurance boards had either created or planned to create a rainy-day fund. This process has gained steamed and discussions now turn to the amount needed.
Also, as previously discussed, a supplementary fund makes sense as the economy from time-to-time will experience pains, dips and recessions. The goal of the supplementary fund is to smooth out these dips and recessions without drastically impacting rates for employers as hard economic times are obviously accompanied by other fiscal strains.
In order to answer the question of "how much," RESCON through the CEC (Construction Employer’s Council) worked with Mr. Les Liversidge and supported his submission which can be found at this link.
Due to the immense size of the WSIB’s reserve fund and the fact that investment markets fluctuate, the paper proposes a range of either 95-105% or 90–110% where rates would be maintained (rates are automatically adjusted for inflation) and would neither be decreased or increased. If funding falls below the lower limit, rates would rise; if funding climbs above the upper limit, the rates would fall.
This model is preferred for its simplicity and responsiveness. It recognizes that WSIB funding is the equivalent of a large boat and decisions need to be made with a long-term perspective as sharp and quick adjustments are not feasible or recommended.
Finally, and most importantly, the WSIB -- when it reaches a full funding -- needs to immediately remove the UFL component of all rates. Employers in this province (especially construction employers) through elevated rates have been a driving factor in the march to zero through overcontributions. In some cases, the UFL can represent more than 40% of the current rate. As a guiding principle, RESCON has always advocated that the risks should be reflected in the rate. This guiding principle leaves no room for the UFL once full funding has been achieved.
Have a safe holiday. Work safe!
Andrew Pariser is the vice-president of RESCON and chair of the RESCON health and safety committee. Reach him @RESCON_VP or at email@example.com, or call 905-760-7777.