The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association (RNCA), which represents police officers in the province, is calling for changes to workplace health and safety legislation to allow full compensation for injured officers.
Currently, officers receive 80 per cent of their pre-injury net earnings, to a maximum gross of $61,615 as of Jan. 1, according to Vanessa Colman-Sadd, director of communications with Service NL, but the RNCA wants that increased to 100 per cent.
Colman-Sadd said that the department had recently gone through a statutory review process for Newfoundland and Labrador’s compensation system, during which the RNCA had made their request for full coverage for officers injured in the course of their duties. However, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission’s Statutory Review Committee did not make that recommendation to government in its final report, Colman-Sadd said.
“There is no province in Canada [that] provides a wage-loss benefit of 100 per cent of pre-injury net earning exclusively to police officers,” she noted. “There are six provinces [that] allow employers to top up, though, for all injured workers,” she added, stressing that RCMP officers are covered federally and that the compensation issue applies only to Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers.
Colman-Sadd noted that changing legislation to allow for full compensation or top-ups “would result in significant costs to employers and the workers’ compensation system, whether that’s for RNC or all injured workers. As well, any changes made to the workers’ compensation system must take a balanced approach, considering the needs of workers and employers.”
Doug Cadigan, president of the St. John’s Fire Fighters Association, said that the association “fully supports” the RNCA’s position. He said that he believes that emergency responders who are injured in the course of their duties while responding to or at an emergency should receive 100 per cent of their salary while recovering. “We think emergency responders are unique in that unlike all other workers in the province, once we begin responding to an emergency, we no longer have control of our workplace.”
Cadigan noted that while it is the responsibility of employers to ensure workers have a safe environment, it has been proven in the past that “this cannot be accomplished” at a fire or other emergency.