News in Brief

No EI premium relief for hiring youth: Feds | B.C. raises minimum piece rates for farm workers | Payroll clerk faces fraud charges

No EI premium relief for hiring youth: Feds

OTTAWA — The federal government has confirmed that it will not implement a 2015 election campaign promise to provide employment insurance (EI) premium relief for businesses that hire younger workers.

The Liberals had pledged to provide a 12-month break on EI premiums for companies that hire younger workers for permanent jobs in 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, in the fall economic statement released in November, the government said it would not be pursuing the issue.

“Based on research conducted by the Department of Finance, it was determined that this was not the most effective or efficient way of spending public resources to create jobs for young people,” a government statement said.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and others have long called on the government to follow through with the promise.

British Columbia raises minimum piece rates for farm workers

VICTORIA — On Jan. 1, the B.C. government increased the minimum piece rates for farm workers who hand-harvest certain crops to the following amounts:

• apples: $21.06/bin

• apricots: $24.23/half bin

• beans: $0.289/pound

• blueberries: $0.488/pound

• brussels sprouts: $0.201/pound

• cherries: $0.277/pound

• daffodils: $0.169/bunch (10 stems)

• grapes: $22.38/half bin

• mushrooms: $0.290/pound

• peaches: $22.38/half bin

• pears: $23.72/bin

• peas: $0.360/pound

• prune plums: $23.72/half bin

• raspberries: $0.440/pound

• strawberries: $0.424/pound.

Piece rates for hand-harvested crops include four per cent vacation pay, with the exception of daffodils, which require vacation pay to be paid on top of the piece rate.

Other provincial minimum wage rates, including the general rate, are slated to rise on June 1.

Newfoundland and Labrador releases list of 2019 holidays

ST. JOHN’S — The Newfoundland and Labrador government has released a list of days that are to be observed as holidays in 2019 under the province’s Shops Closing Act.

The act requires that all shops, other than those exempted, be closed on the following holidays this year:

New Year’s Day                         Jan. 1

Good Friday                               April 19

Easter Sunday                            April 21

Victoria Day                                May 20

Memorial Day/Canada Day     July 1

Labour Day                                 Sept. 2

Thanksgiving                              Oct. 14

Remembrance Day                   Nov. 11

Christmas                                    Dec. 25

Boxing Day                                 Dec. 26

The act also designates as holidays Regatta Day in St. John’s and Harbour Grace, and any day fixed as a civic holiday by other municipalities.

New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial/Canada Day, Labour Day, Remembrance Day, and Christmas are also paid holidays under the province’s Labour Standards Act.

New Brunswick proposes changes to workers’ compensation

FREDERICTON — The provincial government has tabled legislation that would gradually eliminate a three-day unpaid waiting period that injured workers must serve before receiving workers’ compensation benefits in New Brunswick.

The proposal is part of Bill 2,  An Act Respecting Addressing Recommendations in the Report of the Task Force on WorkSafeNB, introduced in the provincial legislature on Nov. 27.

The province’s workers’ compensation law prohibits injured employees (with some exceptions) from receiving any employment-related remuneration (for example: wages, vacation pay, bonuses, overtime) or workers’ compensation benefits for three working days after an injury in order to qualify for WorkSafeNB benefits.

If employers pay any remuneration to the worker during this time, WorkSafeNB will delay compensation benefits for a further three days.

The bill proposes to reduce the waiting period from three working days to two from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. From July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, the waiting period would be one working day. On July 1, 2021, it would be eliminated.

An independent task force reviewing the province’s workers’ compensation system recommended last summer that the government eliminate the three-day unpaid waiting period.

It said New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were the only two provinces that still had a waiting period. Prince Edward Island eliminated its waiting period in 2016.

The bill also proposes to expand the period in which WorkSafeNB can assess, levy, and collect additional assessments from employers if it incurs a deficit from five to 15 years.

Holder said the measure is designed to help prevent employers from seeing significant assessment rate increases.

In the fall, WorkSafeNB announced that it was raising employer assessment rates for the third year in a row, with the 2019 average assessment rate set at $2.92 per $100 of assessable payroll compared to the 2018 rate of $1.70.

WorkSafeNB said the rate increase was necessary to cover the growing costs of workers’ compensation in the province, which it said were being driven by rising claims costs. WorkSafeNB said workers’ claims costs doubled from $199 million in 2014, to a projected $400 million in 2018.

Future liabilities — the funds required to pay for all future claim costs related to a current year injury — also increased by $800 million during that period.

“We take this situation very seriously and we realize the significant impact that this will have on all New Brunswickers,” said Douglas Jones, WorkSafeNB’s president and CEO.

“WorkSafeNB has taken action to find efficiencies and improvements through a review of our policies and internal practices; however, legislative change is required to fully address this problem,” he said.

The bill also proposes to restore policy deference to WorkSafeNB’s board of directors and to specify that the intent of the workers’ compensation system is to compensate for only work-related injuries.

The bill follows a recent government announcement that, during the current legislative session, it plans to set targets for reducing WorkSafeNB employer assessment rates and strengthen safe work practices.

Former payroll administrator charged with fraud, theft

EDMONTON — Edmonton police have charged a former payroll administrator with fraud and theft related to a payroll fraud worth $1.4 million.

Police said between 2007 and 2014, 68-year-old Maureen Burns is alleged to have falsified paycheques from former employees of an Edmonton transport company where she was employed from 2002 to 2014.

The police allege that Burns created false payroll deposits for more than 500 former employees, changed their banking information, and had the falsified paycheques deposited into bank accounts registered in her name.

Burns is then alleged to have fraudulently transferred $1,117,241 into her accounts, with an additional $322,332 paid to the Canadian government from the company in taxes and other payroll deductions as a result of the fraud.

Police said the fraud was discovered in 2014 when staffing reports revealed that an employee who was no longer employed by the company had received payment. After a long investigation, Burns was arrested in November and charged with one count each of fraud over $5,000 and theft over $5,000.

Anyone with information about the crime is urged to contact Edmonton police.

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