The sun shone as injured workers, their families, advocates, labour unions and supporters gathered at Queen’s Park for the 36th annual Injured Workers’ Day, following a Friday night vigil. The event was one of several held around the province, including Thunder Bay and London.
“OPSEU has a rich history of fighting for improved workplace health and safety standards,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “All workers deserve protection, and no worker should go to work afraid of injury, harm or even death. We’ve got to keep fighting for those who’ve been injured, and to prevent injuries from happening at all.”
Kim Prince (Grey Bruce Injured Workers’ Group), Frank Inglis (OPSEU Health & Safety Officer) and Belia Berrocal (IAVGO Community Legal Clinic) led a midday event at Queen’s Park filled with powerful and heartfelt speeches on injured workers and poverty with a call-to-action for meaningful workers’ compensation reform.
In the opening speech, Women of Inspiration’s Maryam Nazemi spoke of her experience becoming an activist for universal workers’ compensation coverage after her own workplace injury. She noted that a high percentage of Ontario’s workforce is not covered. “I found it shameful to leave millions without protection,” said Nazemi.
Speakers Len Elliott (OPSEU Region 1 Regional Vice-President), Jason Patterson (OPSEU Disability Rights Caucus member), Willy Noiles (ONIWG President), Merv King (USW), and injured worker activist Wayne Harris addressed the very real concerns of injured workers and their families, including:
- The impacts of claim denials by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and their process for assessing what is deemed a permanent injury;
- Government cuts to funding that threaten occupational health and safety protections and the legal aid services on which many injured workers depend; and
- The upcoming WSIB review and privatization.
MPP Peter Tabuns called for a just compensation system, reminding the crowd that Labour Critic Wayne Gates’s Bill 119, Respecting Injured Workers Act, is currently before the House.
Janice Martell of the McIntyre Powder Project delivered a forceful message on behalf of the province’s victims of occupational disease, standing shoulder to shoulder with a strong contingent of allied forces, including GE Peterborough, Kitchener Rubber Workers and the Victims of Chemical Valley in Sarnia.
OPSEU Disability Rights Caucus member Jason Patterson presenting at the Queen’s Park Rally.
Len Elliott (OPSEU Region 1 Regional Vice-President) addressing the public at Queen’s Park.