(Although Maria’s name has been changed, this story is based on an injured worker’s real-life experience )
Maria was a head secretary in the school board. Her job was to be the main assistant to the Principle. Most of her work involved entering information into a computer (typing and entering budget information). She had a repetitive strain injury that caused permanent damage to both arms. She was considered unable to type any more. She was quite worried about her future. Was her career finished? How would she support herself if her hands are so critical to her work?
The WSIB and employer got into cost “emergency mode”. She could not become a cost to the system! They had a modified job she could do, they said.
From head secretary to reading magazines
She was asked to read magazines in the school library. And while she was confined to the library “working”, her co-workers had to do her job duties as well as theirs.
A recipe for disaster! She felt humiliated and sorry about the pressure put on her co-workers, who had to stay late at work without extra pay doing extra work. They were upset at her. She became stressed and depressed. Her confidence took a toll. She eventually left on long term disability and got covered by the CPP disability plan.
In a way, Maria did not reach the bottom. She had a union and a long term disability plan. Few workers have that these days. She took a big financial hit tough. She estimates her LTD covers about half of her income at work. And what a waste of her talent! What a waste of her rights to proper return to work, proper rehabilitation and just workers’ compensation.
A success story?
According to the WSIB statistics, Maria is a success story. She returned to work and if she had to leave, it was her decision. The fact she was forced out of work will never be recorded. She is part of the great statistical success narrative of the Marshall WSIB. This kind of “efficiency” is praised and rewarded. Maria is punished.
Maria is in near poverty. Her reduced income is charged on all Canadians, who fund the CPP disability plan, not employers, who fund the WSIB system.
A Maclean’s Magazine article written 100 years ago when the Workers’ Compensation system was created, found that its founder, William Meredith, “…takes the ground that industry and not soup kitchens must look after the helpless humans sacrificed in the service of industry.” (April 1915).
Maria is not using soup kitchens yet, but may be on the way. Why is industry allowed to do this by our workers’ compensation system? Are Canadians aware that this is happening and that they are providing the soup kitchens?