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Mark Day of Mourning by restoring full WSIB benefits: OPSEU

Day of Mourning. Remembering lives lost or injured in the workplace. April 28

On the day that Canadians mark a National Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job, the Wynne government should demand that the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) restore full benefits to those who need support, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) said today.

“It’s scandalous that the Premier and her Minister of Labour stay silent as the WSIB rewards employers with premium cuts while workers and their families struggle to survive on diminished benefits,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“More injured workers are lined up at food banks because the WSIB has dramatically reduced  or denied them benefits. They’re re-victimizing injured workers and handing the savings over to employers.

“The WSIB must rollback the premium cuts to employers and restore full benefits to injured workers.”

Last autumn, the WSIB announced that employer premiums would be cut by an average of six per cent in 2017. In some categories, the decreases amounted to 14 per cent. The WSIB projected this  will save Ontario employers about $250 million annually.

The hard line taken by the WSIB and the Liberal government against injured workers is reflected in workplace safety inspections and more self-regulation by the private sector, which Thomas called “a proven disaster.”  The Ministry of Labour employs about 400 safety inspectors – a number that has remained virtually unchanged since 2004. Inspectors report they are spending the bulk of their time investigating deaths and injuries, and considerably less time probing unsafe worksites.

Janice Martell, an OPSEU activist from Elliott Lake, founded the McIntyre Powder Project. For 40 years, miners were forced to inhale McIntyre “powder,” an aluminum substance that they were told would protect them from underground toxins. Instead, it has inflicted an untold number of victims with neurological diseases. Some have died. Since 1993, the WSIB has denied compensation to miners, claiming there is no proven link between the powder and illness.

"The WSIB system is broken,” said Martell. “It is supposed to be an insurance plan for injured workers but it treats them as a liability. We need a plan that works for workers, not against them.”

Today’s annual National Day of Mourning was marked by remembrance ceremonies in towns and cities across the country. In 2015, the last year for which there is data, 852 workers died on the job in Canada and a further 232,000 were injured.

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931