A busy first week as the Legislative Assembly resumed sitting .. On Monday September 11, Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 was reported (with amendments) from the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and House debate on second reading has begun. Despite widespread concerns – raised at many of the public hearings across the province – about how injured workers will be adversely affected by increases in the minimum wage unless the WSIB practice of deeming is addressed, the issue has not yet been reflected in changes to the bill. It was however raised by Cindy Forster (NDP /MPP – Welland) during Wednesday’s debate on the Bill:
…The WSIB Act should have been opened as well to deal with that issue of deeming. If the government does nothing, people are going to see a reduction in their compensation benefits. As the minimum wage goes up, their benefits go down and they move further and further into poverty because they don’t necessarily have a job. They are phantom jobs to deem you, to cut benefits, right? ..”
This followed her question in the House the previous day, explicitly asking the Minister of Labour when the government would put an end to deeming and fix the failed WSIB policies? In response the Minister Flynn referred to recent improvements to workers’ compensation, saying “we’re prepared to make those changes when the case is made that something should be changed.” (See further information on deeming, a long-standing concern raised repeatedly by the injured worker community and advocates over many years). In the gallery were members of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups, at Queen’s Park for a press conference on the launch of their Workers’ Comp Is a Right campaign. One of the 3 key demands in this campaign is to end deeming and base injured workers’ benefits instead on their actual earnings, not phantom jobs.
The government was also pressed by members and media to strengthen Bill 148 to better respond to the workplace safety, experience rating and other issues raised in the recent Toronto Star investigative report on temp agency workers,
Additionally, the week saw Taras Natyshak ( NDP / MPP – Essex) introduce private member Bill 151, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (PTSD Benefits), 2017. The Bill aims to expand the post-traumatic stress disorder benefits and presumptive benefits provided to first responders through the original Bill 163, by including nurses, health care workers providing close assistance to first responders, and workers other than police officers who provide police services or support the work of persons who provide police services. The Bill quickly passed second reading and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.