Following a long and active campaign seeking fair compensation for occupational disease claims (detailed in the Toronto Star’s investigative report “Lethal Legacy”), retired General Electric Peterborough workers, their families, occupational health & safety and workers’ compensation advocates learned this week that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will be reconsidering denied claims.
In their Sep. 18 news release, the WSIB announced a Dedicated Review Team will be taking a closer look at more than 250 rejected cancer and non-cancer related claims since 2004 where new information or new evidence is available that was not available at the time of the original decision – “ to make sure our decisions reflect the best available scientific evidence and current knowledge of historical exposures.” This review excludes claims where there is no medical diagnosis. Injured workers will be notified if their claim is being reviewed, if additional information is needed, and when the reconsideration decision has been completed (the Board expects a significant number to be completed by the end of the year). The WSIB also intends, when possible, to identify next-of-kin who may be eligible for compensation for previously denied claims. New claims by former GE Peterborough workers can still be filed. Further information (including retroactivity of benefits) is available at 1-800-387-0750 and http://www.wsib.on.ca/GEPeterborough
Responses from the community – and the Minister
Sue James, retired long-time GE worker who was one of the advisers for the recently published retrospective exposure study of the Peterborough production facility, noted that “the community is cautiously optimistic.”
Robert DeMatteo, a lead author of the study which detailed exposures to more than 3,000 workplace toxic chemicals including at least 40 known or suspected human carcinogens, also gave qualified support though. While glad the 250 cases are being reopened, he would have preferred to see an independent board review the cases, adding “I hope this is not a game being played.”
However Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn, interviewed Monday, confirmed the WSIB will be using the DeMatteo report to help guide the review and that he is still considering “presumptive entitlement” for anyone who worked at GE between 1945 and 2000, and later develops cancer. (Mr DeMatteo noted that, of decisions related to GE Peterborough, only 27% of cancer-related claims have been accepted by the WSIB). Minister Flynn described the current review of 250 claims as just the start for workers whose claims were initially denied, addressing first the “low-hanging fruit” of claims which “likely could be dealt with fairly quickly.” Meanwhile, he said, work is being done to create a system to provide compensation to the broader group of former GE workers and their families.
- Kovach, Joelle. 2017 Sep. 18. “WSIB to Reopen GE Peterborough Health Cases.” Peterborough Examiner
- Monsebraaten, Laurie & Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. 2017 Sep. 18. “WSIB to Review More than 250 General Electric Plant Claims in Peterborough.” Toronto Star
- Peterborough This Week. 2017 Sep. 18. “WSIB to Review More than 2050 GE Peterborough Claims.” MyKawartha.com