Ontario’s workers compensation system is being hijacked. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the system built to compensate workers has all but turned into an insurance scheme that does not give workers what they need. Workers gave up their right to sue employers for a “no fault” system meant to compensate workers for injuries and disease that arise out of work. In the system, both parties were meant to avoid long and expensive litigation in the aftermath of work injuries and disease.
However, today’s system starts at no; workers get “no” at the front door and they are left to appeal or abandon their claims. Many workers avoid filing WSIB claims altogether.
Current policies at the WSIB disqualify workers by blaming work injuries and disease on the worker’s age or by blaming the condition on old injuries that have nothing to do with the workplace event or the worker’s current pain.
The new “thing” is to “approve the claim” in general but to NOT approve any lost wages and/or any health care or treatment. Unfortunately “paper approvals” don’t help workers.
What is really happening?
The average lost time claim today is 2 days only
Workers are forced back to work but remain working wounded
Appealing claims to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Tribunal (WSIAT) can take 4 years or more
Where is the justice in that?
Even doctors are coming forward to speak out. Dr. Brenda Steinnagel, a Hamilton doctor, sued WSIB and her own employer clinic after being fired when she refused to change her medical report. Her patient came forward a day later to say that his doctor was brave to come forward. He told the story of how he was fired in 2014, a year after being injured on the job. He is a 46-year-old father of two who worked as a security guard at a hospital in Scarborough for 17 years when he was injured trying to restrain a patient.
Altogether, up to six doctors have written letters, held a press conference, or contributed to a report to declare that the WSIB system as it is being run is re-victimizing claimants.
On Nov 5, 2015, NDP MPP Cindy Forster called for an investigation in the legislature asking why the WSIB was not respecting the opinion of experts: "It's a deplorable state of affairs where the medical advice of doctors and clinical therapists is being ignored, all so that WSIB can ensure their claim numbers look good. To be clear, WSIB is re-victimizing the very workers it's designed to protect."
The WSIB replied with a feeble response, saying, "The WSIB registers over 200,000 claims each year and we take our responsibility to injured workers very seriously. Injured workers have access to high quality health services and providers, and the WSIB has expanded its province-wide network of expert specialized medical assessment and treatment services.
Unfortunately, while the WSIB may “register” claims, how many injured workers actually get approved or actually get benefits until they heal? And while workers may have “access” to services—are those services and professionals manipulated like the doctors are alleging? Having access does not mean getting services. Enough with the smokescreen. It’s time to make compensation for work injuries actually REAL in Ontario.
Yet there is money for Ontario’s employers and the economy. WSIB reports in a November 2015 press release that it is ahead of schedule in cutting the unfunded liability. WSIB reports that, as a result, starting in 2017 employers will get a 10-15% cut in their premiums. Two billion dollars will be returned to Ontario’s economy.” In the same press release, WSIB claims that there are also safer workplaces in Ontario—and we know THAT is not true. Workers continue to get injured, killed, and suffer disease as a result of work.
All this while injured workers visit food banks, lose their homes and their cars, and live in poverty. A 2010 study shows that injured workers are poor and many have lost their retirement savings. According to the report:
1 in 5 workers are living in extreme poverty after injury (less than $10,000 per year). Just over 40% reported an income of less than $15,000/year
only 7 of the injured workers surveyed had used a food bank before they were injured. After injury, the number rose to 77
1 in 5 workers lost their home after injury
over 50% were unable to afford the prescriptions they needed
before injury almost 90% were employed full-time, after injury only 9% still were
We know that employer WSIB rates have not really gone up much in decades. We know that a third of workers are still not covered by WSIB—many in social, community and justice services and health care—and many other sectors. We know that injured workers have been getting less and less—a paper “yes” but no actual benefits or care. Yes, we know where all these savings are coming from. They are coming from the benefits that should be going to injured workers. Shame!!!
We need to return to the principles that founded our system
A non-adversarial system that provides no fault coverage to workers whose injury or illness arises whole or partly out of the course of their work
Compensation for as long as disability lasts—Workers should be able to depend on the security of benefits based on lost wages and that are promptly paid. The injured worker should not become a financial burden on their family or the community
Employers pay through a collective system and the system run by an Independent Public Agency—not an insurance company.
WSIB was set up to provide coverage after work injury and disease to workers in Ontario. So let it cover all workers—not just two-thirds. Let the benefits go to workers—not used to buffer employers’ pockets and the economy. And stop the hijacking of the system. Reform it so it does its job as intended. We want a system of compensation that is there for workers, families and future generations. Not cheap insurance for employers!
Join us at 11 am on Monday December 14, 2015 at the Ministry of Labour building in front of 400 University Avenue in Toronto.