Fortunately the sun shone Saturday as injured workers, their families, advocates, labour unions and supporters gathered at Queen’s Park for the 36th annual Injured Workers’ Day, following the Friday night vigil. The event was one of several held around the province, including Thunder Bay and London.
Kim Prince (Grey Bruce Injured Workers Group), Frank Inglis (OPSEU) and Belia Berrocal (IAVGO) led a midday event filled with powerful and heartfelt speeches on injured worker poverty and calls to action for meaningful workers’ compensation reform. In the opening speech, Women of Inspiration’s Maryam Nazemi spoke of her own experience after work injury that led her to become an activist for universal coverage in a province where a high percentage of the workforce are not covered by workers’ compensation: “I found it shameful, to leave millions without protection…”
Speakers Len Elliott (OPSEU Region 1 VP) and Jason Patterson (OPSEU Disability Rights Caucus), Willy Noiles (ONIWG President), Merv King (USW), and injured worker activist Wayne Harris addressed the very real concerns affecting the lives of injured workers and their families: the impacts of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s claims denials and practice of deeming workers with permanent injuries; government cuts to funding that threaten occupational health and safety protections and the legal aid services on which many injured workers depend; the upcoming WSIB review and questions over privatization. MPP Peter Tabun spoke for a just compensation system, reminding the crowd that Labour critic Wayne Gate’s Bill 119, Respecting Injured Workers Act , a proposed workers’ compensation act (WSIA) amendment to remedy deeming, is currently before the House.
Janice Martell of the McIntyre Powder Project delivered a forceful message on behalf of the province’s victims of occupational disease [read her full speech, The Power to Deny], standing should to shoulder with a strong contingent of Allied Forces (GE Peterborough, Kitchener Rubber Workers, and Victims of Chemical Valley in Sarnia) representing other disease clusters around the province.
Cultural performances were once more an important feature of this year’s rally, with Peterborough’s Brenda Wall and Natasha Luckhardt singing the classic labour song Go To Work Monday One More Time, spoken word artist Vanessa McGowan on poverty [see video], and the Justice Singers. A street theatre skit “We are Persons” echoed the call by Peterborough coalition to “Remember our faces”.
Special thanks to Unifor, UFCW, USW, and OPSEU, among the many labour unions and social justice organizations providing strong and welcome support.
- Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. 2019 May 31. News release: Injured Workers Rally Against Poverty and Privatization.
- Dunick, Leith. 2019 May 31. “Injured Workers Say System Leaves Too Many in Poverty.” TBNewsWatch.com
- Newberry, David & Sarah Neath. 2019 May 29. “Injured Workers Day: Resistance Continues” Rabble.ca
- OPSEU. 2019 May 29. Injured Workers Demand Fairness and Respect