In the current issue of Canadian Dimension Aidan Macdonald, a community legal worker with Injured Workers’ Consultants CLC, explains why the struggle against poverty wages and for universal workers’ compensation coverage are inextricably linked. The injured worker movement, with a decades-long history of mobilizing for justice in Ontario’s workers’ compensation system, now finds itself fighting the austerity agenda of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) which is singularly focused on cost-cutting – at the expense of of injured workers’ benefits and well-being.
Joining forces with campaigns such as the Fight for $15 and Fairness provides an opportunity to connect with the broader struggle to raise the floor for working people and build working class power. The points of convergence in the struggle for employment standards and workers’ compensation based on treating workers with respect and dignity are many, including: the demand for universal coverage; the demand for protection for workers who stand up for their rights, and proper enforcement against employers who break the law; the demand to stop offloading risk and responsibility for precarious employees onto temp agencies.
The article addresses also the dilemma injured workers face in regard to one core demand, and long overdue: a decent working wage. Because of the phantom jobs conundrum and the WSIB practice of “deeming” , when the minimum wage goes up, injured worker benefits go down. As noted, “That the practice can be used to drive injured workers deeper into poverty when the minimum wage goes up is a clear injustice that can serve to drive a wedge between injured workers and the rest of the working class.”
This challenge can be overcome, however, by a united front on the demand for a minimum $15 wage for all, and at the same time for an end to the practice of deeming so that income security for injured workers is raised at the same time as the floor is raised for all workers. (This issue of urgent action needed to prevent unintended and negative impacts of higher minimum wages on injured workers has been raised with the Minister of Labour following the introduction of Bill 148, “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act 2017”; we hope it is also one the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs currently considering Bill 148 hears clearly)