Injured Workers’ Consultants’ advocate Marion Endicott was in Thunder Bay recently to speak at several events about the current workers’ compensation system and proposed changes.
In discussion with host Steve Mantis on the TV program “Community Conversation” (view the 3-part series now posted on the show’s YouTube video channel), Marion spoke on her experiences as an injured worker advocate for over 40 years and concerns with recent developments in compensation policy and adjudication. The conversations also focused on actions being taken by the injured worker community and their advocates to bring positive improvements to the system.
In an interview on “CBC Radio Up North” (May 21, 2015) Marion again addressed how recent potential changes to Ontario’s workers’ compensation system could lead to major problems down the road. As created 100 years ago, the system was built upon dual financial securities – employers got protection against being sued and and could convert costs of injury into the cost of doing business; while workers, in exchange for giving up the right to sue, were to receive compensation as long as the injury lasts.
She noted that the premier’s direction to the Minister of Labour to change the Act to remove compensation for permanent injury (i.e. eliminate the “lock-in”) will remove one of these fundamental pillars of the system. Currently workers with permanent impairments, following an assessment by the Board at the six year-mark, may achieve at least some level of financial security by having the benefits converted into into a quasi-pension to age 65. The proposed changes mean that while injured workers may initially receive benefits for certain amount of time during recovery, the “system will quickly move to ignore fact that an ongoing injury is impeding their ability to earn.” Rather than pay heed to the treating doctor’s report, the Board can cut off benefits by using their own assessments by paid doctors – without another examination, and without further followup to see how the worker is actually doing.
The interview also covered the extreme use of surveillance by the Board – “in catching the very few they are making life very difficulty for the many”. The effect, she said, for many is a downward spiral of mental health and, to quote recent comments of a psychiatrist, a “fast route to poverty.”
The following night, as guest speaker at a meeting of the Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group held at the Lakehead Labour Centre, Marion congratulated the Thunder Bay Group for taking hold of the Platform for Change, using it to explore the principles of Ontario’s workers’ compensation and to propose how to make the system work for all.