… on the lawn at Queen’s Park outside the Legislative Assembly. Why? In 1980 the Conservative government launched a government inquiry, led by Harvard professor Paul Weiler, into Ontario’s workers’ compensation system.
Although injured worker groups had long been calling for needed changes, the review was undertaken without their consultation. While supporting some of the Report recommendations, including a greater focus on rehabilitation, injured workers were outraged, in particular by the suggested replacement of the disability pensions for permanent disabilities which resulted from the workplace.
Even though inadequate, the pension provided at least some income security. In its place Weiler proposed a two-part (dual award) compensation system consisting of a lump sum for pain and suffering and a wage-loss benefit. Between 1980 and early 1983 injured worker groups and advocates held numerous meetings around the province to explain the changes being proposed, gathering feedback for a response. However, again without consultation, the draft bill introduced in the Legislature disregarded their objections.
It was a day when injured workers stormed the skyrecalls Orlando Buonastella (Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic)
But injured workers would not be ignored. At the urging of the Association of Injured Workers Groups (AIWG), the Standing Committee conducting public hearings on the proposed changes finally agreed to hold a day for injured workers – excluded from the reform process in the previous three years. Significantly, it was agreed that a notice of the hearings should be included in the pension cheque mailed to each injured worker. The Committee room booked had space for seven hundred. When thousands of injured workers showed up to express their anger and disapproval of the changes, the Committee was forced, for the first time in its history, to move the proceedings outside to the Queen’s Park grounds. All day injured workers told Committee members of their experiences in dealing with the workers’ compensation system and gave their recommendations. When the new compensation act was brought in a year later, it maintained the pension and, in 1985, finally indexed it to adjust for inflation.
In 1984 the AIWG called for the proclamation of June 1st as the annual Injured Workers Day (an idea adopted that same year by 10 municipalities across Ontario).
Although the dual-award system was later brought in with other changes that further eroded Meredith’s compromise for a fair workers’ compensation system, united action by the injured worker community has been key in pushing back many bad ideas since then and achieving other law and policy reform victories– including the independent Appeals Tribunal, the Office of the Worker Advisor, full cost of living adjustments, the clothing allowance.
For more on the history of Injured Workers’ Day:
- Bedard, Ella. 2015 Jun 1. “Injured Workers’ Day: Support Shouldn’t Come in Half-measures.” Rabble.ca
- Injured Workers’ History Project. 2006. Injured Workers’ Day. Toronto: Bancroft Institute (IWHP bulletin, no. 1)
- McCombie, Nick. 1984. “Ontario: Injured workers fight back.” Canadian Dimension 18(4): 27-28
- McCombie, Nick. 1984. “Justice for injured workers: a community responds to Government ‘reform’ “. Canadian Community Law Journal 7: 136-173
- Schwartz, Kristin. 2009. “The long road to justice: Ontario’s injured workers and Injured Workers Day.” Our Times
2023 – Injured workers will not be ignored
On the 40th annual Injured Workers’ Day , injured workers are coming again in solidarity as they do every year to celebrate gains and demand that the government does not ignore our concerns – in particular this year WSIB plans to reduce appeal rights on the recommendation of KPMG auditors.
Please join us at Queens Park and march to the Ministry of Labour for a rally with CUPE and then lunch and a celebration at the Steelworkers hall at 25 Cecil Street
11:00 Gather at Queen’s Park, Toronto,
11:45 March to Ministry of Labour – Wheelchair transit provided
12:15 Rally with CUPE
1:15 Lunch and Celebration at Steelworkers Hall 25 Cecil Street
For more information & the 40 stories project: https://injuredworkersorganize.ca/