On November 15th of last year, Ontario’s governing Progressive Conservative Party released a document called A Plan For the People: Ontario Economic Outlook and Review that outlined some of their early accomplishments and plans.
Tucked 54 pages into this document is a brief and vague reference to the government’s plans to review how Ontario compensates its injured workers. It reads, in part:
“The government is launching a review of the workers’compensation system to ensure it remains sustainable in the future. The review will assess whether risks are being appropriately considered while providing rate predictability for employers. It will also consider, as part of the review of Provincial agencies, whether the WSIB is operating efficiently and effectively, and whether the governance framework can fulfill its mandate.”
Given this government’s short but consistent record of quick and deep cuts to services – as well as the fact that the review doesn’t even mention injured workers – many people are concerned about what this process could entail, and requests for clarification have so far gone unheeded.
Yesterday, the Official Opposition’s WSIB Critic, Wayne Gates, issued an open letter to Labour Minister Laurie Scott demanding some answers about what this review will entail. Read some excerpts below:
As you know, workers’ compensation was set up in 1915 to replace the courts and provide speedy and humane justice for people injured or made sick by their jobs. However, today in Ontario injured workers continue to fight for the right to live with dignity after they have been injured on the job. Statistics from the WSIB indicate that 39% of people who successfully completed a WSIB training program remained unemployed but their benefits are cut the same as if they were working. Recent research coming out of Trent University found that 46% of injured workers with permanent disabilities were living below or near the poverty line.
…The official statement only mentions employers and not injured workers. This review must be independent, transparent and accessible to the people the WSIB is meant to serve – the injured workers.
When the Ministry does its review to see if the WSIB is efficient and effective, will you make sure the WSIB is more efficient at actually helping injured workers to get real jobs – not phantom jobs – and more effective at compensating them for their lost wages?