People’s Review of Workers’ Compensation
— Speech by Janice Martell on Behalf of the Allied Forces —
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.