“Injured workers losing out on Ontario’s wage bump. Here’s why” / Sara Mojtehedzadeh (Hamilton Spectator, Toronto Star Jan. 8, 2018) – with Letters to the editor in response (Jan 13). —
While supporting the $15 & Fairness minimum wage campaign, injured workers and their advocates warned lawmakers and policymakers that unless they also addressed the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board practice of “deeming” some workers with permanent disabilities would take an extra hit. Anna Maria Grillo is one such worker. Following decades of working in sewing factories, resulting permanent wrist injuries five years ago left her with wrist braces and unable to sew. Like many injured workers with visible injuries, she found employers unwilling to hire her. Although she has been unable to find suitable and available work, the WSIB deemed her capable of a minimum wage job and cut her workers’ compensation benefits by that amount. With the minimum wage rising this month to $14, her increased phantom wage from a job she doesn’t have means her correspondingly lower loss-of-earnings (LOE) benefits will push her further into poverty. In fact, her $66-a-week benefit will soon disappear since she was making $13 an hour at the time of her accident.
“Totally disregards employment barriers that people with disabilities face”
Injured Workers’ Consultants (IWC) Community Legal Clinic estimates almost 82,000 people since 2007 have been “deemed” to have jobs without actually being employed. IWC’s’s Aidan Macdonald notes that “What we often see or hear from injured workers who are going through the return-to-work process is that the assistance that they are getting is not meaningful and not truly helping them obtain or sustain employment.” So while the WSIB says it will phase in adjustments to help those negatively impacted by minimum wage increases, Macdonald argues the more fundamental issue is that the WSIB cuts benefits regardless of whether the injured worker has actually found a new job after an accident. “Despite the slower phase-in, Macdonald said the board should ultimately do away with deeming and “compensate people for their actual lost wages” … [full article]
[Update Jan. 9: Willy Noiles, President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, explains on Radio 610 CKTB’s morning Larry Fedoruk show how the WSIB is using minimum wage to cut compensation benefits – listen to the interview (8 mins)]
- Workers’ Comp Is A Right Campaign (ONIWG). 2017. We Demand: No Cuts Based on Phantom Jobs