Ontario WSIB pays off unfunded liability, reduces rates for 2019
By Peter Saunders
September 27, 2018 – Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) announced it has paid off its $14.2-billion unfunded liability (UFL) almost 10 years ahead of its legislated schedule, allowing it to reduce average premium rates by 29.8% in 2019.
The UFL—i.e. the shortfall between the money needed to pay future benefits and the money in the insurance fund—grew over decades, leading the province’s auditor general to warn in 2009 that it put the WSIB at risk of not being able to meet obligations. It reached its peak of $14.2 billion in 2011.
Now, having played a role in paying down the UFL, Ontario businesses will see their premiums reduced. Next year, WSIB says, the average rate will decrease from $2.35 to $1.65.
“This will leave $1.45 billion in the economy every year, which businesses can invest in new jobs and health and safety improvements,” says WSIB chair Elizabeth Witmer. “Also, people who are hurt as a result of their work can have confidence we will be here to help them, now and always.”
“We’ve moved from a tipping point to a turning point,” says WSIB president and CEO Thomas Teahen.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), however, suggests the employer-funded WSIB is failing to invest in and provide adequate support to injured workers, having already reduced fees by 30% in the 1990s and a further 10% in recent years.
“Benefits paid out to injured workers have been on the decline,” says Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “Far too many of them are denied access to benefits of any kind or aren’t even covered by WSIB in the first place. Thousands are now living in poverty. Reducing the responsibility of employers for supporting workers who are injured on the job forces the publicly funded health care system and social services to pick up the slack.”