Justice for Injured Workers!

Celebrating Three Years of the
Workers' Comp Is a Right!

This September marks the three-year anniversary of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups' (ONIWG) Workers' Comp Is a Right! campaign. To mark the occasion, ONIWG organized an online celebration in which more than 65 people participated.

On this occasion, ONIWG put forward its demand, that with the announced resignation of the current CEO of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), Thomas Teahen, injured workers must have a say in who should replace him and what the CEO's job description should be. ONIWG President Janet Paterson read out the job description put together by injured workers in different areas of the province and encouraged people to sign a petition calling on the government to give injured workers a say in hiring the new CEO.[1] The hiring committee for the new CEO must include those most affected by his actions -- Ontario injured workers -- Paterson pointed out.

The online program included a slide show which captured some of the important moments in the campaign that was launched at a public meeting on September 11, 2017 followed the next day by a press conference at Queen's Park as the Ontario Legislature opened for its fall session. Over the past three years ONIWG and its allies have organized rallies, pickets and outreach actions across the province, spoken to more than 70 MPPs, produced issues of their newspaper, Justice for Injured Workers, organized Justice for Injured Workers' Bike Rides and much more. In the fall of 2018 alone they organized some 30 public meetings in different regions.

Speaking about the campaign, Executive Vice President Willie Noiles pointed out that ONIWG began developing the campaign almost a year before it was launched and involved injured workers from across the province in discussing the problems they were facing and the key demands on which they wanted to mobilize. In March 2017, ONIWG brought groups together from across the province and by the end of the day, from months of discussion and an initial list of 15 demands, they had sorted out the main demands of the campaign. These were: No cuts based on phantom jobs!; Listen to injured workers' treating health care professionals!; Stop cutting benefits based on "pre-existing conditions"!

The campaign has been important in activating injured workers across the province, with new groups being founded and important steps taken to end injured workers' marginalization and make their concerns the concerns of all working people in Ontario. Among other things, due to the work done by injured workers through this campaign, there is now a private member's bill before the legislature, Bill 119 introduced by the NDP, which would end the practice of deeming.

Patty Coates, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, brought greetings to the celebration and pointed out that changes to the workers' compensation system are especially urgent under conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. She denounced the refusal of the provincial government to implement the presumptive principle, meaning that workers in health care and other high risk workplaces who contract COVID-19 would be presumed to have been infected at work and be able to quickly access WSIB benefits.

The program also included remarks by Dr. Giorgio Ilacqua, who has been active in the demand that WSIB listen to injured workers' treating physicians; Wayne Harris, an injured construction trades worker; and Jessica Ponting, who spoke to the conditions faced by migrant workers in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers' Program when they are injured on the job.

ONIWG also announced that it will be launching a speakers' series on October 8 which will explain in more detail the demands of the Workers' Comp Is a Right! campaign. The first online meeting will deal with the WSIB's practice of deeming and the demand that it end.


1. To read and sign the petition, click here

(Photos: WF, ONIWG, UFCW)

This article was published in

Number 62 - September 17, 2020

Article Link:
Justice for Injured Workers!: Celebrating Three Years of the Workers' Comp Is a Right! Campaign


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