Opposition grows against mandatory WSIB coverage for independent contractors, sole proprietors and others in construction industry
By Anja Karadeglija
Special to GTA Construction Report
Bill 119, which makes it mandatory for independent operators, sole proprietors, some partners in partnership and some executive officers in the construction industry to pay WSIB premiums, is now facing opposition from the industry.
The bill was passed in 2009 and came into effect in January, but protests only began earlier this year.
As part of a campaign, “Stop Bill 119,” contractors have joined in demonstrations across the province, protesting in Ottawa and Hamilton on Feb. 12 and in front of the Ontario legislature on Feb. 28.
The Ontario Home Builders were among the participants at that protest– chief operating officer Joe Vaccaro spoke to the 300 assembled protestors and promised to continue fighting the bill, an OHBA newsletter outlined.
The coalition behind the “Stop Bill 119” campaign, which is mostly made up of contractors, will continue its fight against the bill, said Juliette Forgues, who started the campaign and works at Les Fondations Brisson in Casselman.
She noted that the protestors at the Feb. 28 protest had taken the day off work to attend.
“It went very well, and we all agree that there’s there something that can be done if we don’t let up,” she said.
The coalition began with an open letter circulated in January, and then held a meeting on Jan 22.
“After that, we said ‘we need to do something,’ and that’s how it started,” said Forgues.
There are no other protests on the horizon – instead, those involved in the campaign are currently focusing on a letter to present to the government, and would like to have it signed by contractors from every part of Ontario.
Though the coalition and protests are very recent, the bill was passed in 2009, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business was warning the bill would have a negative effect a year ago.
However, Forgues says the reason it took so long for the anti-Bill 119 campaign to start was because detailed information about the consequences of the bill on contractors wasn’t available earlier – for instance, information sessions were held late last year.
“It’s a law that doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Bill 119 was just the law straw for us. Enough is enough.”
The coalition wants WSIB to have to compete with private insurance companies.
The fees the WSIB will be charging contractors are too high, and only apply during the work day, while private insurance contractors already have applies 24/7, Forgues said.
“It’s really not comparable,” she said. “It’s a lot of money out of (contractors’) pockets for absolutely nothing.”
Opponents of the law have also argued that the coverage is useless because owners aren’t going put forward a claim against their own business.
According to the campaign, the law will affect 90,000 construction companies and cost them an extra $400 million a year.
Contractors will be obliged to raise their prices to pay for the new premiums, meaning the customers will be the ones to have to bear the price increase, she added.
MPP Randy Hillier, the PC labour critic, has also been an opponent of the bill, and has introduced a private member’s bill that would allow those affected to buy private insurance instead. He’s introduced similar legislation in the past, but wasn’t successful.
Forgues adds Hillier has also helped her with the coalition since its beginnings.
Despite the growing visibility of the issue, she says she’s found that contractors aren’t as aware as they should be of the bill and its effect on them.
“There are still people who aren’t up to speed,” Forgues says.