“Injured worker on hunger strike for compensation hearing”: After 18 days with only water and broth to drink, Jimmy Velgakis says he just wants a chance to tell his side of the story. / Marco Chown Oved (Toronto Star, May 29, 2015)
Article reports on the situation of the 74-year old former City of North York worker, who injured his back on the job in 1991, and has been in a continual struggle since to get workers’ compensation benefits owed.
This is the injured worker’s third hunger strike. As explained in a press release issued by Injured Workers’ Consultants following Mr Velgakis’ first hunger strike (2011), after reporting the injury, Mr Velgakis then struggled to keep working for nearly two years with the help of his coworkers. He turned to the WSIB for help when he was let go because his employer could no longer accommodate his back condition. The WSIB decided that his ongoing back problems were not related to the accident, a decision upheld by the Appeals Tribunal. The hunger strike, through intervention by the OFL, ended with the promise of a new hearing where he could tell his story and all of the facts could be explored, including the evidence of a witness that was previously excluded by the Tribunal.
As reported (InsideToronto.com), the hearing did take place in 2012, “however WSIB senior staff concluded that the WSIB did not have jurisdiction to reconsider Velgakis’ case, effectively nullifying the entire hearing.” A second hunger strike, shared by the Parkdale resident’s MPP, Cheri di Novo, was held in 2013 and again ended when the Tribunal received an official request for a new hearing. A full hearing has not materialized.
In the words of his legal representative, Marion Endicott, “Jimmy has been the victim of an insidious transformation of our workers’ compensation system from an inquiry-based one to an adversarial one… Jimmy’s fighting not only for himself, he’s fighting for all injured workers.”