On November 23rd, 2023, Injured Workers Community Legal Aid Clinic (IWC) was the co-recipient of the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Prevention Link Health and Safety Award, which was shared with the staff of IAVGO Legal Clinic.
The award, which was given out during the OFL’s 17th Biennial Convention, was presented in acknowledgement of both clinics’ “fight for injured workers.” It was received on behalf of IWC by Community Legal Worker David Newberry. A copy of his remarks is below:
On behalf of IWC, thank you. It’s a pleasure and privilege to share this award with our friends at IAVGO. Congratulations as well to all of you on what has by all accounts been an exciting and energizing convention, and congratulations to the new executive.
IWC has had the pleasure of working directly with the OFL on many occasions and on many issues, perhaps most significantly eight years ago when we co-authored a whistleblower report called Prescription Overruled about the systemic ways that the WSIB ignores injured workers doctors. The federation’s work in amplifying this report brought important compensation issues to the forefront of public conversation in a way they hadn’t been in a long time. We look forward to continuing to partner on essential fights for injured workers, such the fight to end the poverty-making practice of deeming, which pretends injured workers have jobs when they do not, and cuts their benefits by the imaginary wages that the compensation board fantasizes they receive at their phantom jobs.
For over 50 years IWC has had the opportunity to fight with and for injured workers in Ontario, alongside our allies in the labour movement. Through that time, the clinic has been pleased to see the formal representation offered by unions to their injured members grow, and there are certainly many unions who do great work on this front. However, there is still progress that could be made. We still receive calls from unionized workers whose union does not offer free representation, who didn’t know that it is available, or have been incorrectly told it is not available, or that the wait for help will be years. So, I will take a quick moment to remind you that IWC and IAVGO are small operations that cannot possibly help everyone who comes to us, everyone who needs us. At the same time, we know first-hand that for many injured workers, the difference between having a rep and fighting alone can be the difference between poverty and economic survival. Between a lifetime of pain or proper treatment. In too many cases, it can be the difference between life and death. I implore you to make sure that those services exist for your members, that your members know about them, and that they are properly resourced.
Finally, you may or may not know that the WSIB is moving their head office to London Ontario, and has recently endeavoured to endear itself to the good people of London by announcing that they will be, in their words, the “lead corporate sponsor” of the city’s New Year’s Eve festivities. I am not here to you that Londoners don’t deserve a ripping New Year’s Eve bash. But you can imagine that for injured workers who have been living through decades of austerity and benefit cuts, and for the many among them who will be isolated by poverty and pain through the holidays, the news that the board has the money to throw parties now – just not money for benefits – has not been sitting super well.
So, I invite you to join injured workers, and to invite your sisters and brothers to join as well, on December 11th at 11:15am at the Ministry of Labour, as injured workers deliver their own set of New Year’s resolutions for the WSIB to the Minister and Board.
IWC would like to thank OFL for this honour, and congratulate our co-recipients at IAVGO.