Letter by a coalition of injured workers, community legal clinics, private bar lawyers, and doctors calls on the Premier to take urgent action on the new WSIB policy on mental stress which will put workers with mental injuries in Ontario in a worse position than they have ever been. By placing a heavier burden of proof on workers injured by chronic mental stress than any other workplace injury or disease, it discriminates against the most vulnerable. The Coalition is confident it will be found illegal and unconstitutional. Coalition authors: Anthony Singleton, ARCH Disability Law Centre, Ellen Lipes, Gary Newhouse, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Health Professionals for Injured Workers, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Injured Workers’ Consultants Community Legal Clinic, Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG), Peter Bird, Renfrew County Legal Clinic, West Toronto Community Legal Services.
IWC Community Legal Clinic welcomes Bill 148 as an important first step in responding to the needs of workers struggling with the effects of precarious and unstable work. While fully supporting the proposed increase in minimum wage, the Clinic draws the Committee’s attention to one vulnerable group for whom it will have negative consequences – those who have a permanent disability due to work injury and are subject to the WSIB practice of deeming. The Submission sets out the problem and proposed solutions. The brief also calls for an end to the incentive (under experience rating) to hire temporary agency workers for dangerous work.
With approx. 29% of Ontario workers not covered, the province ranks lowest in Canada in coverage under workers’ compensation. Letter to the Minister of Labour, asking his government to make compensation more inclusive, speaks to the cost-shifting to the public purse when workers in a non-insured workplace get injured; the need to expand coverage to industries not specifically named in the legislation (a list barely updated in the past 50 years), with the non-covered sectors disproportionately affecting women.
In his presentation to the Niagara public hearing held July 19th by the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on “Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017”, ONIWG president Will Noiles addresses the issue of why the WSIB policy of deeming must be changed if the increase in minimum wage is to avoid harming injured workers. See also video of his presentation.
Group fully supports the progressive changes in Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which will provide protections for many new immigrants entering the labour force who, because of employment barriers, are often placed in jobs at minimum wage, physically demanding and involve irregular or odd working hours. However, because of the WSIB policy of deeming, injured workers will NOT benefit from the increase in minimum wage.
Submission endorses recommendations of the Ontario Federation of Labour‘s submission, and outlines IWC’s principal concerns: a too narrow definition of “chronic mental stress” and “workplace bullying”; mechanisms that will add barriers to approval and access to care, that are discriminatory and set a higher bar for workers with mental injuries compared to workers with physical injuries; the exclusion of all employment decisions is inconsistent with other Ontario legislation.
While supporting several draft provisions, ONIWG Submission to the WSIB Chronic Stress Policy Consultation details its concerns including failure to address workplace sexual harassment are not adequately addressed; standards for entitlement different than those for physical injury; proposed distinctions between high- and low-stress jobs; legislative limits regarding employer decisions.
ONIWG’s letter to the Minister of Labour welcomes the province’s increase in the minimum wage but warns that, unless the WSIB’s policy and practice of deeming is eliminated, this increase will hurt many permanently disabled workers by reducing their benefits.
In a follow-up to their April 4 letter, Bright Lights tells the Minister why, until the practice of deeming is ended, the much-needed increase to the minimum wage hurts injured workers. Wage replacement benefits are based on the difference between pre- and post-injury earnings. When unable to work yet deemed by the WSIB to have a “phantom” minimum wage job, injured workers have their benefits reduced or eliminated due to an increase in the minimum wage.
Coalition of legal aid clinics, workers’ compensation lawyers, injured worker groups, doctors address provisions regarding chronic mental stress entitlement and the expansion of Board policy-making powers contained in amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (Schedule 33 of Bill 127, the Budget Measures legislation).