06/22/2012 05:44 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Labour leader defends WorkSafeBC bonus

The president of the B.C. Federation of Labour is defending the bonus being paid to employees of WorksafeBC for getting more injured workers back to work as quickly as possible.

On Thursday a CBC Investigation found $3.2 million in saving generated by getting injured workers back to work is being distributed to the agency’s unionized employees, meaning each will be receiving a bonus cheque for about $1,400.

WorkSafeBC says the goal is to benefit workers by having them return to work voluntarily while also generating savings for the system.

BCFed president Jim Sinclair says there's a system of checks and balances to ensure the system works for employees and injured workers and those bonuses are not to be funded by pressuring workers to return to the job involuntarily.

"This is an entirely voluntary program that only goes into effect for an early return if the employee agrees, if the doctor also signs off and says this is appropriate, and if the employer agrees and if the person goes back to work and is successful," said Sinclair.

"They're monitored and asked if it worked and if they aren't successful, then it doesn't count towards the incentive," said Sinclair.

But a lawyer who represents injured workers told CBC News some return to their jobs because their benefits are cut off.

“Voluntary is not in any way, shape or form what I would describe,” Patterson told CBC News. “Workers go back to work because they are cut off benefits and often irrespective of what their family doctors are saying.”

WorkSafeBC pays workers who have been injured on the job, investigates workplace injuries, monitors workplace compliance and promotes employee safety.

Through efficiencies realized by getting injured workers back on the job as quickly as possible, WorkSafeBC realized a savings of $12.8 million in 2011.

But WorkSafeBC’s human resources vice president Roberta Ellis said workers are not being forced back to work in order to realize a saving to WorkSafeBC, but are going back to their jobs voluntarily.