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NAPE, N.L. employer’s council face off over presumptive mental health legislation

Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, says the union’s sticker campaign allows businesses across the province to show support for NAPE’s members.
Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees. File photo

Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council executive director Richard Alexander.
Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council executive director Richard Alexander.

Presumptive mental health legislation is at the center of debate between the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council.

In response to NAPE’s “Let’s Get It Right” campaign for presumptive mental health legislation, the Employers’ Council sent a letter to Premier Dwight Ball to clarify what the council calls misconceptions put forward in NAPE’s campaign.

“Given this legislation will be discussed in the House of Assembly this fall, we want to ensure that you are provided with accurate and balanced information,” reads the letter.

Presumptive legislation refers to the acceptance of injury claims for a medical or psychiatric diagnosis without a worker having to prove the disorder is a result of an event or exposure while on the job.

On Wednesday, NAPE issued a news release confirming it had obtained a copy of the letter.

NAPE President Jerry Earle called the Employers’ Council’s stance on presumptive legislation “cold, callous, and dangerous.”

In response, Employers’ Council executive director Richard Alexander argued workplace mental health is “extremely important to employers in this province and to our organization.”

Related story:

NAPE launches workplace mental health legislation campaign

Alexander said changes to workers’ compensation legislation back in March already addressed many of the issues brought up in NAPE’s campaign.

He said NAPE is using outdated information to push government to implement a presumption in the legislation.

“The workers’ compensation system is an insurance system that, through legislation, is designed for workplace injuries only, so if mental health issues occur out of the workplace, they are covered by workplace insurance program.

“To say that all injuries in the province, no matter if they were caused in the workplace or not, should be covered by workplace insurance system is simply not the way the legislation is designed.

“There has to be some kind of check and balance there to ensure that it is work-related, and that exists in every type of injury that occurs in the province in workplaces today, so it should be given the same adjudication process as other injuries.”

Earle, however, called the Employers’ Council’s position a “slap in the face of any worker out there who is suffering from a workplace mental health injury or illness.”

Earle added the Employers’ Council has a “strong tradition of being against anything that is good for workers.”

“The government has a chance to get this legislation right and we will continue to press, and fight, and lobby them to make it a reality, despite the feeble attempts of the Employers’ Groups to do otherwise. We are hopeful that the government sees their intervention for what it is – a self-serving, regressive attempt to stop good legislation that will protect workers and save lives.”

Alexander said introducing presumption would mean non-work-related mental health issues could potentially be covered by workers’ compensation.

“That would potentially impact the cost of the system, (and) it would impact the benefits that are being paid for workers who have to demonstrate that it’s work-related – that’s not fair to workers.”

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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