In the News April 28
April 28 Day of Mourning
Janet Paterson, Injured Workers Organizer
Janet Paterson is the President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG).
This year, we are joining the Ontario Federation of Labour’s May Day actions and encouraging workers to get involved. May Day is about organizing workers around the world for their rights, and that includes their rights to safe and healthy working conditions. And we are workers too. We are workers who have been injured or have been made sick at the workplace.
On April 28, we are also having Day of Mourning ceremonies in different locations. This year, we are going back to ceremonies in which we are physically present, to actions that are organized by communities, with the involvement of the Labour Councils and other groups.
We need healthy workplaces and we need to keep calling on our government to get after the employers, to get after the businesses. For example, what role are the government’s inspectors actually playing? We see that the number of fines being levied against businesses has decreased significantly. But we are not seeing a decrease in the number of accidents and we are certainly not seeing a decrease in the number of illnesses coming out of the workplace.
We have three main demands at this time that we are putting forward.
The first is against deeming. This hugely hurts workers. Workers, when they have permanent impairment, they are permanently injured, permanently sick. The WSIB [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board] will tell them that they are able to go out and work, and then it deducts the dollar value of the wage it is deeming the worker is making from his or her benefits. For the most part, for people who are deemed, there are no jobs involved. They’re not physically or even mentally capable of doing the work and there’s a medical to prove it. Deeming greatly contributes to workers living in poverty.
The second is that WSIB has what is known as paper doctors. They get the opinion of these paper doctors. We want the WSIB to listen to the doctors who are actually treating the worker, as well as the physiotherapists and others, the health care person who is treating the worker. They need to be listened to. When they say that the worker is not ready to go back to work, then do not send him or her back to work, because then another injury happens and they get even more hurt.
The third is the practice they have of pre-existing conditions. WSIB has a defined time line, whatever your injury is, on when you are expected to heal. And when you do not heal during that time line, they go further. They say that your injury has nothing to do with something that happened at the workplace, that it is a sign of a pre-existing condition, for example something that may have happened when you were a child and you hurt yourself.
So we are bringing those demands to the actions we are going to take part in, the May Day actions and also the Day of Mourning ceremonies in various locations in Ontario.
We are saying that workers’ comp is a right. We have even taken the issue of deeming to the United Nations. The WSIB regime is violating our human rights. WSIB has a responsibility to get us back to the best that we can be, whatever has happened to us. They do not have the right to take away from us the tools that we need to be the best that we can be. We are entitled to have health care that is going to be the best for us. We are entitled to have income that enables us to live a life in dignity.
I encourage people to get involved. Add your voice. Make your voice count. To speak out is even good for your health.
Our situation is very difficult because the focus is on business, the focus is on money. It is not organized for the ordinary people. Our work in defence of people is very important.
Workers’ Forum, posted April 28, 2022.