Ontario Injured Workers' Rally Affirms Demands

Workers' Comp Is a Right!

The Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) rallied December 12 outside the Ministry of Labour in Toronto to firmly reiterate to the Ontario government the main demands of injured workers.

Members of ONIWG were joined in the action by many of their allies including members of the United Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Workers United, the Ontario Federation of Labour, Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and a contingent from the Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L).

Wayne Harris, the Executive Vice-President of ONIWG and an injured construction trades worker, spoke on behalf of the organization. He spoke about his own experience of being injured and dealing with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to bring forward the main demands of ONIWG's Workers' Comp Is a Right! campaign. He highlighted in particular the demand that WSIB must listen to injured workers' treating physicians. The "paper doctors" used by WSIB to assess workers’ claims make their decisions without even meeting claimants, and thus cannot fulfill the duty of care doctors are required to provide, he noted. He also emphasized the need to end the WSIB's practice of reducing injured workers' benefits based on "deeming" that they are receiving earnings from a job which they do not have.

Wayne announced that on December 13 ONIWG was launching a court action challenging the WSIB's miscalculations of the cost of living adjustment injured workers are to receive this year. They have calculated it to be 2.2 per cent when in fact it is 4.7 per cent. In addition injured workers are demanding that the Ford government keep the commitment made during the 2022 election to increase injured workers' loss of earnings benefits to 90 per cent of their pre-injury income.

OFL Executive Vice President Janice Folk-Dawson brought the organization's greetings to the rally. She pointed out that workers cannot rely on the government or the WSIB to fix the problems with the compensation system and must instead rely on their own work and mobilization. She announced that the OFL is launching an "Enough Is Enough!" campaign which, among other things, is demanding increases to the Ontario Disabilities Support Program and Ontario Works and demanding that the corporations and banks "pay their due." 

The rally also heard from representatives of the Toronto and York District Labour Council and the United Steelworkers. MPP Wayne Gates spoke about his private members’ bill  (Bill 57) calling for the end to deeming which was just re-introduced in the legislature.

The final speaker of the day was Mohamed, a migrant worker, speaking from Injured Workers' Action for Justice. He pointed out that migrant workers come to Canada to do hard, dirty and dangerous work, and worked these jobs throughout the pandemic. While other workers were given bonuses or raises during the pandemic in consideration of the dangerous conditions they worked in, migrant workers continued to make minimum wage. Citing his own example, that he has worked here for over five years without seeing his family, he spoke about the very difficult situation faced by migrant workers and the toll it takes on their families, made that much worse if the worker is injured on the job. 

If a migrant worker is injured on the job they are sent home. Here we work to provide food, he said, but if injured we cannot afford to feed ourselves and our families. The situation of migrant workers makes the WSIB's policy of deeming all the more dastardly, and farcical, when they reduce a workers' WSIB benefits based on a job they are supposedly doing in Ontario, when in fact they are home in Jamaica or in some other country. "We demand the government take up its responsibility to injured workers -- Full Justice! No Half Measures!" he concluded.

The rally ended with a performance by ONIWG's skit troupe the Malingerers dealing with the refusal of WSIB to listen to injured workers' treating physicians and the hardships this causes as workers are forced to keep working without proper treatment for their injury. 

Organizers encouraged participants to join the action against privatization of health care taking place nearby following the rally, very aware of the importance of the public health care system to injured workers, as it is to everyone in Ontario.

After the rally ended Wayne Harris delivered hundreds of signed letters from injured workers and their allies reiterating ONIWG's basic demands for action to the Acting Deputy Minister of Labour. 

(Photos: TMLD)

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 60 - December 16, 2022

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