No. 6September 9, 2019
Injured Workers Must Have a Say in All Matters of Concern to Them!
The Labour Day issue of Justice for Injured Workers, the newspaper of Ontario injured workers, has been released. For years, the newspaper has firmly defended the right of injured workers to adequate compensation that would allow them to live in dignity. It has provided a space for injured workers and their allies to have their say and report on their work to build their organizations, fight for what belongs to them by right and end their marginalization.
The Labour Day issue continues this important work. It focuses on the campaign Workers’ Comp Is a Right! spearheaded by the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG). The campaign has been in full swing since 2018 and continues with increased urgency as the Ontario government and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) have stepped up their anti-human wrecking of the compensation regime. The WSIB is denying and cutting the benefits of injured workers under all manner of fraudulent pretexts, thereby forcing them into increased poverty.
The latest attack is the Ford government’s decision, in its April 11 budget, to cut Legal Aid Ontario’s funding by 35 per cent. The decision deprives Ontario’s most vulnerable of legal assistance including injured workers, people facing unfair eviction, refugees, and so many others. These cuts directly illustrate the inhumane anti-social direction of the “Ontario Open for Business” approach imposed on the people by the Ford government and the global private interests it represents. Ontario workers organized some 40 actions province-wide on July 30 to demand the decision be reversed.
Injured workers front and centre at rally against cuts to legal aid July 11, 2019, at the new Attorney General’s Barrie constituency office, demanding the cuts be reversed.
The Labour Day issue of Justice for Injured Workers is dedicated to the members of ONIWG, their allies, and the many workers who have been injured or fallen ill on the job, their families, and others dealing with work-related deaths. The paper contains useful information about the struggle of injured workers, the situation they face and how, in unity with others, they can organize to take firm stands in defence of their rights.
Many questions and concerns are addressed in this issue, which features:
– greetings from the newly elected ONIWG executive;
– a number of articles dealing with the fight to end the Ontario government and WSIB practice of deeming, in other words, cutting injured workers’ benefits based on jobs that they do not have;
– the fight to reverse the cuts imposed by the Ford government on legal aid clinics in Ontario;
– the struggle of allies advocating compensation for workers suffering from occupational disease and their families;
– the organizational strengthening of the ONIWG; and
– a call for a People’s Review of the Workers’ Compensation System.
Importantly, the paper gives pride of place to the voices of injured workers, their organizations and allies speaking in their own voice about their concerns and struggles.
Newly elected ONIWG President Janet Paterson has an article entitled, “Your Voice Is Important! Together We Are Strong.” She speaks of the achievements made thus far and the challenges facing ONIWG in the coming period. Amongst other things, Janet stresses the importance of strengthening the relationship between the ONIWG board and the injured workers’ groups through the establishment of regional vice-presidents and the revitalization of existing committees. She discusses the importance of initiatives to meet ONIWG funding needs, such as providing regional vice-presidents with funds to support them in their outreach to injured workers’ groups in their respective regions. She assesses the impacts of the cuts to Legal Aid clinics on injured workers and all marginalized persons and demands that the cuts be rescinded. She concludes her article by affirming that together injured workers are strong, their voice is important and together as an organized force, injured workers are part of the movement for change necessary to guarantee their rights and the rights of all. In this spirit of unity in action, she calls upon all to involve themselves in the work of ONIWG.
The Labour Day issue of Justice for Injured Workers is a precious contribution to having the voice of workers heard at a time when the country is heading into a general election. Renewal Update calls upon all its readers to order copies of Justice for Injured Workers, to help finance the paper and assist in widely distributing the paper not only in Ontario but throughout the country, as injured workers face similar problems and struggles wherever they live in Canada.
— Peter Page —
Peter Page (front right) and other Justice bike riders lead off Ontario Injured Workers’ Day march, June 1, 2016.
The Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG) is considering conducting a People’s Review of the Workers’ Compensation System. Injured workers have been recipients of many government reviews of their compensation system and always to their detriment, with the emphasis always being about the sustainability of the system long term. The recently announced Ontario government review of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is no different and lacks the voice of injured workers.
These reviews, used by successive governments to implement austerity against the injured worker community, are a trope. This cover-up of the wrecking of our compensation system is in the interest of this and previous governments’ “open for business” politics.
I emphasize the fact that the workers’ compensation system was set up for the health and well-being of workers injured in their respective workplaces in return for which they gave up their right to sue their employer if injured or made ill by that employer. Since its inception in 1914, the Ontario workers’ compensation system has undergone many changes. It was initially implemented to address the inadequacy of workers’ rights to compensation in regards to workplace injuries, as the judicial process or courts always made judgements in favour of the employer. This left injured workers, whose injuries in many cases left them unable to find suitable work, on the margins of society.
At some point the courts began to make judgements in the workers’ favour and this became problematic for employers who did not want lawsuits brought against them that could cripple or ruin their business. The business community wanted some kind of security and so struck what is now known as the “Historic Compromise” whereby workers gave up their right to sue in exchange for compensation. I again emphasize this statement of “giving up our right to sue,” which was a major concession given to the employers.
The name of the Workers’ Compensation Board was changed in 1999 to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. This shift in name also represented a move towards the insurance model and possible privatization of the system.
What is compensation? The dictionary defines compensation “as practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium.”
The workers’ payment of a premium, as suggested in this definition, was the giving up of our right to sue our employer. The employer through this historic arrangement has been accommodated for the last hundred years. With the help of the government the system has not been adequately funded by employers, at the expense of injured workers and their families. This is now a crisis within our society, all across Canada.
We welcome contributions and support for this necessary and important initiative of having our own People’s Review of the Workers’ Compensation System.
Please contact: Peter Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Speech by Janice Martell on Behalf of the Allied Forces —
On June 1, Injured Workers’ Day, workers, family members and advocates from GE Peterborough, Victims of Chemical Valley, Kitchener Rubber Workers, McIntyre Powder Project and Ventra Plastics gathered at Queen’s Park as “Allied Forces” united in the fight for just compensation for those made ill by their work. They stood in solidarity with one another and in defiance of a broken workers’ compensation system as reflected in the speech given there and reprinted below.
I am the daughter of Jim Hobbs — one of the 27,500 Ontario miners subjected to mandatory aluminum inhalation under the McIntyre Powder aluminum prophylaxis experiment.
Standing with me are workers, family members, friends and advocates for other occupational disease clusters — GE Peterborough, Kitchener Rubber Workers, and Victims of Chemical Valley in Sarnia — who bear similar stories of toxic workplace exposures and unanswered questions about the health effects of those exposures.
Many people gather on Injured Workers’ Day because the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has denied their claims for recognition of work-related injuries and illnesses.
This is especially true for occupational diseases, where symptoms may not appear for years or even decades — long after employers have closed shop, long after exposure records are nowhere to be found, long after medical records have been destroyed — making it next to impossible to document exposures, prove diagnoses, hold industry accountable, and succeed in a WSIB claim.
In 1914, the workers of Ontario gave up our right to sue our employers for workplace injury or illness in exchange for the right to fair compensation should we be injured or made sick by our jobs. We kept our end of the deal.
WSIB has the power to grant our right to fair compensation or to deny our right to fair compensation. And with each denial comes a multitude of other denials.
You deny us our dignity, the acknowledgment that our years of exposure to multiple toxins is significantly responsible for our sickness.
You deny us our right to know. How many others? How many others in the same workplaces, exposed to the same toxins are suffering the same diseases?
You deny us the opinions of our physicians and substitute the opinions of your hired guns.
You deny the evidence that we hold in our bodies, that we live with, rally against, and die from — in numbers that defy your decision to deny.
You deny us the peace of dying with the knowledge that our families will be taken care of by the fair compensation that we were promised.
Your power to deny us is vast. It overwhelms us. It angers us. It leaves us without hope, without justice, without health or the financial means to fight back.
Yet here we are, gathered here together in defiance of your power, in defiance of the oppression that we feel. We gather as workers, as family members, as friends, as advocates. We gather for those who are too ill to be here. We gather for those who have died without justice.
We gather as Allied Forces.
There are more of us than there are of you. We have suffered more. We have faced more challenges. We work harder. We help each other. We overcome adversity.
And we too have the power to deny.
We deny you our silence. You will hear our voices.
We deny you the comfort of our anonymity. You will see our faces. You will know our stories, our struggles, our suffering.
We deny you our isolation. We will find one another. We will gather. We will organize. We will stand together. We will fight back.
We deny you your narrative. We will expose you — and challenge your power to deny.
Ontario Injured Workers’ Day 2019
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