(Statement from Manitoulin & North Shore Injured Workers Group chairperson, Gary Hrytsak)
Some workers stared with disbelief. Others sat hunched and stared at their shoes. I had just explained the recent move by the Ford Government to cut employer premiums again. The Manitoulin and North Shore Injured Worker’s Group was formed in 2013 and it has continued to thrive since that time, but, for groups like this to continue, the members need to feel like they are making a difference, and that they are contributing somehow to the common goal of improving the lot of injured workers. This group has worked hard over the years trying to raise community awareness, by holding rallies and attending community Fairs and handing out pamphlets. I’m sure it is the same for the other groups across Ontario. Members sacrifice their time and scarce resources by coming to meetings and working for the common good because they have in their minds that this somehow is going to make things better for injured workers.
And then we get told that the employer premiums will be cut again by 30 per cent.
This news of the cut to employer premiums, which we all know will lead to further cuts to benefits for injured workers, just as the last round of cuts did, has been absolutely crushing to the members of our group. The sense that we are making headway in our struggle for what is right and fair has been replaced by a feeling that our struggle has been for nothing. It hit home that not only is nobody listening to us, none of the political parties seem to care whether injured workers are treated with the basic fairness and respect that we deserve. The Liberals and Conservatives have only made things worse for injured workers, and our issues are not even on the NDP’s radar. So who do we turn to for help ?
The answer is that we have no one else to turn to but ourselves. We can’t give up, so the only alternative is to get stronger, and we do this by supporting ONIWG (Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups). If we speak with one voice and act as a single entity then others sit up and take notice of us. Politicians will make our issues their issues only when we have a united membership and sufficient number of supporters to influence the outcome of the next Provincial election. So we need to re-double our efforts to raise community awareness. People need somehow to know that we are their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. We deserve fair compensation when we are injured or become disabled on the job and right now we aren’t getting it. We get handed platitudes by the Minister of Labour when what we really need is sufficient income to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. Many of our members live in poverty because of the Policies of the WSIB and this isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that our workers have traded their health for a bag of empty promises, which is all the Province seems to be offering injured workers these days. Empty promises don’t buy groceries.
So we will somehow re-energise here. The fight will be a long one. We need to remind ourselves that this is a fight for basic justice, for fair compensation, and to be treated with respect. We can’t give up because the alternative is worse.
Gary Hrytsak, Chairperson
Manitoulin and North Shore Injured Workers Group
November 1 2018