On June 1st every year, injured workers and labour activists gather outside the Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park in Toronto and in cities across the province to mark Injured Workers’ Day. We rally on this day to celebrate the gains made through united action, raise current concerns – and remind governments we cannot be ignored.
The day commemorates June 1st 1983 when over three thousand injured workers forced a government committee looking at major changes Ontario’s workers’ compensation system to conduct a public hearing on the steps of the Legislature.
Pressure by the Association of Injured Workers’ Groups (AIWG) had made the the Standing Committee eventually agree to set aside a day of hearings for injured workers to voice their concerns about the Weiler proposals, which included replacing the permanent disability pension with a wage loss system. They came in numbers too large for the Committee rooms, so at the suggestion of the AIWG the hearings were held outside on the lawns of the legislature.
The solidarity and activism of the injured worker movement during the 1983 June 1st event drew public and media attention to their objections to the government’s process of reform.
- Bedard, Ella. 2015 Jun 1. “Injured Workers’ Day: Support Shouldn’t Come in Half-measures.” Rabble.ca
- Schwartz, Kristin. 2009. “The Long Road to Justice: Ontario’s Injured Workers and Injured Workers’ Day.” Our Times, 28(2): 16-19
- Injured Workers’ History Project. 2006. Injured Workers’ Day. Toronto: Bancroft Institute (IWHP bulletin, no. 1)
- Union of Injured Workers. 1985. “Now Is the Time!” Injured Workers Voice, May/June: 1-2
- Ontario Federation of Labour. Communications Dept. Injured Workers Day [photo albums and Youtube videos]
- Rebel Sage. “Justice for Injured Workers – June 1, 2015, Toronto” [4 Youtube video]
IWD 2016 began May 31st with a program of poetry and song to start the 10th annual Overnight Vigil on the Queen’s Park lawn, organized by the Women of Inspiration
At 11:30 hundreds of injured workers, labour, advocates and supporters gathered outside the Legislative Assembly for the 33rd annual June 1st Rally, followed by a march down University Avenue to the offices of the Ministry of Labour
We say ‘enough is enough’
Our workers’ compensation system is in a state of crisis. Just like we’re seeing with social programs and public services across the map, a regime of austerity reigns at the WSIB, and this has meant a full-fledged assault on people who have been injured or made ill at work. At the same time as injured workers are being forced into poverty and abandoned by the system that is supposed to support them, the WSIB is showering employers with billions of dollars in savings; as of 2018, the WSIB will be lowering employer premium rates, to the point that they will be saving over $2 billion per year.
We refuse to accept any more cost-cutting on the backs of injured workers, and we’re taking to the streets to make our voices heard … and demanding systemic investigation into what’s happening at the WSIB. (Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups)
While a number of MPPs raised questions about WSIB practices and injury prevention inside the Assembly, injured workers, union leaders and legal clinic advocates gave first-hand testimony of the impacts and changes needed.
Message to the Minister
Queen’s Park was the final stop on the Justice for Injured Workers’ Bike Ride from Windsor to Toronto. Riders Richard Hudon and Peter Page delivered postcards gathered from injured workers in communities along the route, telling Minister Kevin Flynn what they would do with the $2 billion intended for employers in rate cuts.
A Day’s Work
The rally concluded at the Steelworkers’ Hall with a special pre-screening for injured workers, organized by ONIWG in collaboration with Fight for $15 & Fairness, of the award-winning documentary “A Day’s Work”, about a 21 year-old temp agency worker who was killed on his first day on the job. A panel discussion about precarious work, workplace health & safety, and injured workers included also the film’s executive producer Dave DeSario.
Other local IWD events
While many of those attending the Queen’s Park event travelled from around the province, other Injured Workers Days were celebrated in local communities, including Windsor and Peel.
Rally & march endorsed by:
Bright Lights Injured Worker Group, Chinese Injured Worker Group, Women of Inspiration Injured Worker Group, Ontario Federation of Labour, Workers’ Action Centre, OCAP, UFCW Canada, Steelworkers Toronto Area Council, PSAC Ontario Region, CUPW Toronto Local, Workers United Council Canada, London & District Injured Workers’ Group, Barrie & District Injured Workers’ Group, Barrie & District Labour Council, Oakville & District Labour Council, Huron District Labour Council
Updated March 4, 2017