A single mother, Halima Tato, after years of struggle in dead-end jobs, thought her family’s fortunes had turned around when she was hired by Canada Bread for a well-paying production line work in 2001. However a workplace accident the left her with a head injury, serious enough to send her to the hospital, began another journey of pain and frustration. A CBC investigative team followed her progress for 10 months as she confronted her employer’s claims management practices, battled to have the WSIB recognize her injury, and dealt with the effects of her injury.
As Halima related the initial incident, while the emergency room doctor was telling her to go home and rest, the company had already told her, even before sending her in a taxi to the hospital, that she was expected to return to work the next day. In pressuring injured workers to return to work quickly, companies can prevent a lost-time claim being recorded on their record. In Ontario’s workers’ compensation system, under the “experience rating” program, companies can be penalized (with surcharges on their assessment rates) if the number of their lost-time claims are higher than the industry average , or receive a rebate if the rate is lower. The CBC report notes that in 2003 Canada Bread was fined $357,000 in surcharges by the WSIB.
Halima’s experience show it is the injured workers who pay heavily when pressured to return to work before they have had time to heal. Although she did go back to work the next day, as requested, recurrent dizziness meant she was soon unable to continue. By the time her injury was finally recognized by the Board, a year had passed in which Halima had endured numerous medical assessments, exhausted her Employment Insurance benefits, was forced onto welfare and facing eviction. And her health? The chronic pain and depression that have resulted from her injury mean Halima was not able to return to work.
(For Halima’s full story, see the CBC News InDepth Workplace Safety case study (Apr. 24, 2006), part of its Dying for a Job series.)