Former cabinet minister Joy MacPhail is introduced as new chair of the ICBC board, Feb. 26, 2018. Board compensation has been cut by 17 per cent since the NDP government took over. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Is ICBC adding staff and increasing salaries? No, David Eby says

Accounting, bonus changes misread, staff and salaries cut overall

Reports of the Insurance Corporation of B.C. adding more high-priced staff and increasing salaries as it struggles with two years of billion-dollar deficits are not accurate, ICBC and Attorney General David Eby say.

Statistics compiled from ICBC financial statements show that in the last complete fiscal year, 2018-19, the corporation added 195 additional staff in the $75-$100,000 salary range, and reduced the number of positions earning higher salaries.

The increased staff are needed to handle the rising number of claims, ICBC said in a statement provided to Black Press this week.

“Over the last two years, ICBC had to recruit more claims staff to respond to the growing volume of reported claims due to ongoing lawsuits, and to meet customer needs,” the statement says.

Corporation documents show that from 2017-18 to 2018-19, the number of employees earning $100,000 to $150,000 declined by 10 per cent, from 526 to 472. The number of staff earning salaries of $150,000 to $200,000 declined from 117 to 72, a 38 per cent decrease. Those earning salaries of $200,000 and up went from 32 to 11, a 34 per cent decrease.

“We’ve also been very successful in driving down compensation at ICBC, so I’m quite frustrated by reporting that suggests we’ve somehow increased those numbers, when actually we’ve made a very concerted effort to reduce those numbers,” Eby told reporters at the B.C. legislature last week. “We’ve reduced executive compensation at the board level by 17 per cent since we took over the corporation.”

There have been two recent changes at ICBC that create the appearance of increased costs. One is the elimination of the ICBC bonus program, part of the previous government’s approach to hold back a portion of staff salaries until performance targets were met. That change took place in the 2017-18 fiscal year, and holdback amounts were rolled into base pay, creating the appearance of higher salaries.

The other change was a switch from calendar year reporting to fiscal years, to match the government’s own books. That change produced a 15-month fiscal year for 2016-17, covering the period from January 2016 to March 2017, producing higher costs than the 12-month fiscal years that followed.

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B.C. Liberal critic Jas Johal used those “huge increases” to claim staff costs are adding to ICBC’s financial woes, which prompted Finance Minister Carole James to bail out the corporation with more than $1 billion in the February provincial budget.

At the time, ICBC was projecting a $1.8 billion deficit for the current 2019-20 fiscal year, even with an increase of 6.3 per cent in basic insurance rates for 2019.

In its latest financial report this year, ICBC showed a net income of $55 million for the first quarter, April through June. The corporation said the improvement is mostly due to strong investment returns on real estate and bonds, which won’t be repeated this year.

The corporation warns that legal challenges from the B.C. Trial Lawyers Association to its major reforms, capping “pain and suffering” payouts at $5,500 and sending smaller disputes to an administrative tribunal, could cost the corporation hundreds of millions per year.

Injury claims against ICBC prior to the reforms taking effect April 1 total more than 100,000 claims, representing $12 billion in costs still to be paid.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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