While the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) was holding its Annual General Meeting yesterday, injured workers and their advocates were protesting outside the building. They were there to #BlowTheWhistle on the Board’s strong financial position being built on the backs of injured workers through benefit cuts. Yet even as the workers called once more on the Board to address claims denial and practices that leave many in poverty due to their work-related injury or illness, news releases from the WSIB and Ministry of Labour provided another “kick in the teeth for workers of this province” (to quote MPP Wayne Gates in the House that afternoon).
Relieving ‘burden’ for business but no ‘peace of mind’ for injured workers
Trumpeting an early end to its eight-year drive to eliminate the unfunded liability (considered by many a “manufactured crisis”), the Minister of Labour Laurie Scott and the WSIB announced cuts to employers’ premium rates that rival those made by the Progressive Conservative government in the 1990s – sending a message that Ontario is “open for business.” As agreed in the historic compromise that is the basis of Ontario’s workers’ compensation system, employers fund the workers’ compensation system through these premiums/assessments, and injured workers in turn give up their right to sue their employer for their injury. The cuts announced yesterday of almost 30% follow cuts of 10% over the last few years, and will reduce the average rate in 2019 from $2.35 to $1.65
During the years that the unfunded liability has been drawn down, injured workers have seen drastic reductions in health care and cuts to benefits based on alleged “pre-existing conditions” and the practice of deeming.
As Aidan MacDonald of Injured Workers’ Community Legal Clinic told the Toronto Star , “since 2010, compensation benefits paid to injured workers have been cut in half” – contributing to an unacceptable level of poverty, especially among those with permanent impairments.
With their workers’ compensation system being further defunded by these new premium cuts, injured worker groups, their legal representatives and labour have little confidence in reassurances that they can rely on it to receive the benefits and services to which they are entitled and on which they and their families rely when suffering occupational injury or disease.
- Mojtehezadeh, Sara. 2018 Sep. 26. “Workers Groups Cry Foul as WSIB Celebrates Financial Milestone.” Toronto Star
- Ontario Federation of Labour. 2018 Sep. 26. WSIB Cuts to Employer Premiums Spells More Bad News for Injured Workers in Ontario, says OFL
- Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups. 2018 Sep. 26.WSIB AGM Action Facebook album | Workers’ Comp Is A Right
- Ontario Ministry of Labour. 2018 Sep. 26. Ontario Open for Business: WSIB Premium Rate Savings to Help Employers Boost Economy