Long-time member of Bright Lights and activist in the injured worker movement, Tony Mauro was injured in two construction work accidents after immigrating to Canada in 1956. The first injury was to his back in 1966 when working as a carpenter on a high-rise construction; the second injury, six years later when moving a steel beam, broke his back completely. At age 38, the severity of this permanent injury left the father of two young children unable to work.
His frustrations in trying to gain fair compensation from the Workers’ Compensation Board are carried in his well-known poem [Download a version in English and Italian “Gli’Infortunati sul Lavoro”].
A recent interview in the Toronto Star (with video) describes how the unjust treatment continues to this day. As an older worker with a pre-1990 injury, he is one of those who fell though the cracks when changes to the workers’ compensation legislation gave workers such as he (on full benefit and not expected to ever work again) cost-of-living adjustments for injuries suffered in 1990 or later.
This means his benefits are capped at 90% of his 1970 wages. What’s worse, his Old Age Security benefit is lumped in with the WSIB benefits. In their calculations, any increase in the OAS means his WSIB benefit is clawed back by that amount!
The Injured Workers
by Antonio Mauro
O Canada, we gave you the very best
This we say with pride
We gave you nothing but the best
We gave you our blood, our bones, our flesh
We made you the most beautiful
We made Toronto the queen of cities
We built all the office towers and homes
O Canada, you are the envy of all
O Canada, we built you up
Our blood is mixed into your cement
We are but innocent victims
Of a progress we paid dearly for
Mothers destroyed by grief
Spouses staring at a loss
children without a parent
What else do you want?
The day of our injury
Was the loss of our human rights
Not even our pension plan
Wants our contributions now
No compensation for the pain
Charity from month to month
Looked upon by provincial eyes –
But are we not perfectly Canadian?
A half-life of hell
Confined to the margins of society
Why was justice denied?
Why the trip from pride to begging?
O Canada, we gave you so much
Why so much cruelty in return?
Are we just old tools
Good yesterday, garbage today
Although unable to work or take part in the physical activities he had loved (soccer, music, dancing), his poetry has won awards in Canada and his native Italy.