June 5, 2018

35th Annual Ontario Injured Workers' Day

Injured Workers Make Their Voices Heard
at Spirited Rally and March in Toronto  


35th Annual Ontario Injured Workers' Day
Injured Workers Make Their Voices Heard at Spirited Rally and March in Toronto
Actions Around the Province
Peterborough General Electric Retirees' Proposals for Workers'
Compensation Reforms

35th Annual Ontario Injured Workers' Day

Injured Workers Make Their Voices Heard at
Spirited Rally and March in Toronto

On June 1, Ontario Injured Workers' Day, more than 200 injured workers, including a busload of General Electric retirees from Peterborough, along with many youth and many attending for the first time, participated in a spirited rally and march to demand the rights of all injured workers to full compensation, health care and the supports they require to enable them to live with dignity. They were joined by representatives of Steelworkers Local 1005 from Hamilton, Toronto Steelworkers Area Council, United Food and Commercial Workers Canada, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Unifor, and other unions, the Toronto and District Labour Council and the Ontario Federation of Labour, along with the South Asian Women's Rights Organization, the Workers' Centre of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada and many more.

The rally welcomed the cyclists from the fourth Justice for Injured Workers' Bike Ride who successfully completed a tour through towns in Northern Ontario from Elliot Lake to Sudbury, organized by the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups and the McIntyre Powder Project. The ride this year focussed on the diseases and injuries suffered by many miners in the communities visited.

A militant march south from Queen's Park down University Avenue followed, the flags and banners held aloft and the chanting of slogans drawing the attention of hundreds along the way. At the Ministry of Labour the rally was joined by 200 Canadian Union of Public Employees members who took a break from their convention to join in. One of the speakers at the Ministry of Labour was Janice Hobbs Martell who travelled from Massey to speak about the case of her father the late Jim Hobbs who had died last year of work-related illness because he, and thousands of other miners, were forced to inhale MacIntyre Powder allegedly to prevent silicosis, but it instead led to many of these miners dying of cancers and other occupational diseases. Janice Hobbs Martell spoke about her fight to get justice for her father and other victims and to raise awareness so that such abuse of workers' health and safety never takes place again.

Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups President Willy Noiles at the close of the rally thanked everyone for making the 35th Ontario Injured Workers' Day a great success and pledged to keep up the fight no matter which party wins the Ontario election June 7.

Town Hall Meeting on Ontario Election

Following the march and rally some 80 people participated in a Town Hall candidates meeting
and discussion on the concerns of injured workers in the context of the province-wide Workers' Comp Is a Right campaign and the Ontario election.

(Photos: WF, ONIWG, K. Taghabon)

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Actions Around the Province

Actions were held on May 31 and June 1 in Peterborough, London, Windsor and Thunder Bay as part of the province-wide Injured Workers' Day and the campaign for workers' compensation to be guaranteed for all workers as a right.


On the eve of Injured Workers' Day, working people in Peterborough held a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to those injured or killed on, or made ill by, their job. A major presence were General Electric (GE) workers suffering from industrial diseases, their widows and their families who are fighting for just compensation. Everyone gathered at the GE plant, then marched past the Peterborough & District Labour Council monument to the Quaker Oats Fire monument in Millennium Park.            

Singers and trade union activists George Hewison, Brenda Wall, and Natasha Luckhardt led the vigil with songs. St. Catharines health and safety activist Bruce Allen spoke about a similar group in Sarnia. Several family members and retired workers spoke the names of former GE workers who have died.


A spirited action on Injured Workers' Day took place in Windsor in front of the offices of the Workplace Safety Insurance Board. In addition to taking up the Workers' Comp Is a Right campaign, the Windsor event was also held to commemorate Rolly Marentette who died a year ago. Marentette was a longtime activist for workers' health and safety in Windsor who always called on working people to speak for themselves especially in exercise of their right to refuse unsafe work and in defending injured workers against unjust treatment by government agencies such as the WSIB.


Injured workers in London made sure their voices were heard in days before election day. On May 30, they rallied outside a Progressive Conservative rally to demand justice for injured workers and denounce governments and big political parties for ignoring the plight of injured workers and their families. Two days later on June 1, they rallied at the entrance to Victoria Park for Injured Workers' Day.

Outside a Progressive Conservative rally, May 30, 2018.

Injured Workers' Day in London at Victoria Park.

(With files from Peterborough & District Labour Council. Photos: Peterborough & District Labour Council, WF, K. Jones, Occupy WSIB.)

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Peterborough General Electric Retirees' Proposals
for Workers' Compensation Reforms  

Representative of GE retirees Sue James speaks outside Ministry of Labour June 1, 2018.

The following "Manifesto for a Reformed, Just, and Democratic Workers' Compensation System" was circulated at the June 1 Ontario Injured Workers' Day Rally in Toronto by the GE Retirees Occupational Health Advisory Committee, Unifor Local 524.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION IN CRISIS: Ontario's worker compensation system is in crisis when it comes to fair and just compensation for injured workers. Not a day goes by without a news story describing serious injustices carried out by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Shockingly, these are just a small fragment of what workers and their representatives have been reporting about the Board's questionable practices, designed to deny claims or cut benefits. Historically, the Board's current practices represent a major deviation from the founding principles set out by Chief Justice William Meredith in 1914. These founding principles were set to create a "no-fault workers' compensation" system, to assist workers injured or made sick from work.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? A great deal! Workers' compensation has evolved into a system that largely serves the interests of the employers. This is reflected in the change of name from "The Workers' Compensation Board" to a "Workplace Safety and Insurance Board" during the Mike Harris regime. This is confirmed in a study by the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO) that found a large percentage of denied claims reviewed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) were based on little or no evidence. This was a general policy of "proactive denial" formulated to reduce the Board's unfunded liability between 2009 and 2015 by denying claims. This was accompanied by another corrupt practice of forcing the Board's "paper" doctors to give the opinion the Board desired. The harassment and firing of Dr. Brenda Steinnagel, for refusing to change her medical report to suit the Board's wishes to deny a worker's claim, is a case in point.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF AUSTERITY: During that period of proactive denial, rebates to employers increased by over 100 per cent and denied claims doubled. Benefits to workers were cut by 33 percent. This is not a mere coincidence!

With a mindset of a private insurance provider, the WSIB became exceptionally rigid, aggressive, and adversarial in finding ways to deny or terminate workers' claims.

ABUSING THE VULNERABLE: Taking abuse another step further with a practice called "deeming," the board currently determines if a worker is fit to work, often without medical evidence that the worker is able to work, or contrary to his/her doctor's opinion. Often there is no job to return to at the pay level of the worker's previous job. This usually results in the Board cutting benefits. In many cases this leads to poverty, frequent re-injury, and psychological distress. A joint study from Trent and MacMaster Universities found that 46 per cent of permanently injured workers were living below the poverty line.

Abuse doesn't stop there. Indeed, the WSIAT found that the Board had wrongly upheld 50 per cent of employer's abusive actions against workers.

FAILING TO ADDRESS OCCUPATIONAL DISEASE: The true extent of occupational disease remains largely unaddressed. Only a small fraction of work-related disease claims are allowed. Consequently, this leads to a distorted assessment for regulatory and prevention purposes, and shifts the burden of work-related disease onto our public health care system, families of victims, and society in general.

Over the years questions have been raised by numerous medical and legal scholars who have identified numerous systemic obstacles to disease recognition that include: an onerous burden of proof requiring scientific certainty rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada; legalized thresholds rather than exposure guidelines; dismissal of doctors' assessments of work-relatedness, or readiness for a safe return to work; over-emphasis placed on the worker's medical history, or what the Board terms a "pre-existing condition" rather than hazardous workplace exposures; narrow focus on one chemical and one disease, and an unwillingness to address mixed exposures and disease clusters claiming that this is beyond the Board's legal mandate.

These cluster cases are typically not investigated appropriately, and the board refuses to accept this as evidence of work-relatedness.

A PUBLIC INQUIRY DEMANDED: The exposure of these questionable practices has led to growing demand for a full scale public inquiry into the operation of the WISB with a view to placing the WSIB under democratic control. It is no longer tolerable to have a worker compensation system based on the practices and policies of a "private" insurance company, operating as a power unto itself with little public oversight. Workers demand and deserve a workers' compensation system that addresses the needs of those who are injured and made sick from work. Time's run out! It's time to act!


- The systemic obstacles to occupational disease recognition including: onerous burden of proof, ignoring doctor's assessments, over-emphasis on medical history, rigid thresholds, ignoring exposure conditions, paucity of occupational health research.
- Off-loading of the social and economic cost of injury and disease onto our public health care system, families and society in general.
- Abolish the unjust and harmful system of "Deeming."
- Emphasis on "pre-existing conditions" to deny claims.
- The use of "paper doctors" employed by the board to deny claims without a medical exam.
- Forced return to work.
- Inordinately long wait times for adjudications.
- The exclusion of migrant workers from the worker compensation system.
- Address the abuses of the experience rating system.
- Abolish time limits for filing claims and appeals.
- Restore the right to oral hearings.
- Restore the name of the Workers Compensation Act and the Board.

CONTACT: Sue James, Advisory Committee, Chair: suejames @cogeco.ca

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Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  office@cpcml.ca