(ONIWG’s recent letter to the Premier follows up on questions on deeming raised with her during recent Town Halls by providing recent research on how severely injured workers are impacted by the WSIB practice of deeming…)
As many are aware, the Premier of Ontario has been hosting Town Halls across the province. These Town Halls are presented as spaces for individuals to ask their questions to the Premier directly. Injured workers have been to four of these Town Halls to put forward questions about the government’ support for those who have been injured or made ill at work. Recently, injured workers were at the Town Hall held on the eve of the International Women’s Day, March 7th.
On that day, the room was filled with women and allies who were anxious to ask the Premier about her work to on gender equity, precarious work, and housing conditions for those in vulnerable populations. The questions ranged from policy and action regarding rent control, healthcare and care homes for those with disabilities, policing, labour disputes and her commitment and action in the reconciliation of indigenous peoples.
Among these questions, injured workers got a chance to ask the Premier about ‘deeming’ and its implication for vulnerable populations.
Our question to her was:
As a Premier, you identify as one who cares about gender equity and fairness for everyone. You have heard much about deeming. Deeming is the practice of the WSIB in cutting injured workers’ benefits based on jobs that they do not have. This in general is an unfair practice. In the case of women worker, who are already in vulnerable and dangerous positions, already earning wages lower than their male counterparts, when deemed and their compensation is cut, they are penalised double. They are forced to become dependent – dependent on social assistance or financial assistance from a partner or their family for support. We want to know what your government is doing regarding eliminating deeming.”
Her response to the issue of deeming was:
This issue has come up over and over again. I have asked questions about deeming in this sense. If there are people who on paper look like they can work, but in fact they are not going to be able to work, then I think we need to ask those questions about how to resolve that issue… If someone is deemed to work, we have to establish if they really are able to work… so I want you to know that I have raised that issue and we will continue to work to get a good answer for that question … and it is not fair if someone cannot work; if they are being penalised for not working.”
Injured workers appreciate the questions asked by the Premier, however, we have on numerous occasions spoken to her regarding the elimination of the practice of deeming and we now ask for action. Deeming assumes that the injured worker who is not able to attain a job is receiving wages and uses that assumption to justify the slashing of the injured worker’s compensation, thus becoming a pathway to poverty for many injured workers with permanent impairments.
Deeming has to be eliminated. Injured workers should be compensated for the time they take to recover from their injury and for the time it takes to find a job that is safe for them to return to. If the injury takes away their capacity to earn wages, the WSIB must be a system that compensates the injured worker for their lost earnings.
As the Premier says: “It is not fair if someone cannot work; if they are being penalised for not working”. It is certainly not fair for injured workers to be penalised by an unjust practice that bases itself on wages that are not earned in actuality. We work for action by the government and the WSIB.