The bet of prevention
Introduced by the Minister of Labor, Employment and Social Solidarity, Jean Boulet, Bill 59 contains 293 articles and spans 118 pages. It is based on two opinions from the Advisory Committee on Work and Manpower, the first on the system in general and the second on new psychological health issues. Both employers’ associations and central labor organizations sit on this committee, which probably explains why the reception given to the bill has been generally positive. Unions and employers will, however, need to engage in meticulous analytical work to assess all the possible effects of the proposed changes and propose amendments, if necessary. The devil is in the details, as the English say.
With regard to the persons covered, the bill extends the plan’s protection to interns. Domestic workers will also benefit from public insurance, to the extent that their employers, individuals, do not pay them illegally, one must understand.
The Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST) paid out benefits of $ 2.2 billion and collected contributions totaling $ 2.8 billion in 2018, according to data made available. That same year, there were 103,406 new cases of occupational injuries, whether they were work accidents and occupational diseases of a physical or psychological nature. Nine million working days were lost, the equivalent of 36,000 full-time workers.
The departmental cost reduction forecasts associated with the bill are as ambitious as they are imprecise. The savings would oscillate between 149 and 422 million per year after five years and between 256 to 634 million per year after ten years.
Measures to reduce the number or duration of work stoppages will apply. Employers will be called upon to grant a temporary assignment to workers who can no longer occupy their position. In addition, after an accident at work, rehabilitation services will be offered quickly to the injured. The preventive withdrawal of pregnant women will be based on a national protocol instead of depending solely on a prescription from the attending physician.
Acceding to a union demand, it will no longer be 25%, but indeed 94% of workers who will be targeted by prevention mechanisms – health and safety committee, health and safety program, prevention program and representative of health workers – security. Whether or not the different mechanisms are applied – and how heavy they are – will depend on the size of the business and the level of risk.
Highly technical, Bill 59 contains advances for workers, but also certain elements intended to satisfy employers. The minister sought a balance between the interests of each other.
To contain the costs of the plan and reduce the number of lost working days, Jean Boulet is focusing above all on prevention and monitoring that workers will exercise to this end. Doubts remain about the magnitude of the results he dangles. It’s still a worthwhile bet.