In a letter to the Minister of Labour, the Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley calls on the government to bring in universal coverage and correct a long-standing injustice that leaves almost 35% of Ontario’s workers without workers’ compensation protection in the event of work-related injury or illness.
Outdated and discriminatory
Because Ontario’s workers’ compensation system is based on an inclusionary system, only employers whose businesses/industries listed in the WSIA schedules are mandated to provide coverage for their workers. Although occasionally updated, these lists still primarily cover the traditional manufacturing, construction and resource industries, plus retail, hotels and restaurants and publicly-funded institutions. Left out are many employees in the new economy from finance, information technology and service sectors (such as software developers, call centre operators, bank employees). A disproportionate number of those affected are women, heavily employed in non-covered areas of office work, health care and social assistance, and education. As the OFL letter charges:
“The reason for the exclusion of so many occupations traditionally associated with women is clear – false notions of men as breadwinners and the workplace as a man’s world…”
Time for action
Non-coverage often means financial vulnerability or disaster for the injured worker. It also means their injury statistics are not included in those tracked by the WSIB and which the government relies upon for resource allocation and strategy planning.
The OFL president reminds the Minister that following Brock Smith’s public consultation of coverage under the WSI Act the Board passed a recommendation in Dec. 2003 for full coverage with relatively few well-defined exclusions. (Arthur’s 2012 report for the Board “Funding Fairness” ( p.106-108) and Stanley’s 2014 “Pricing Fairness” (p. 51-52) have also urged the WSIB and province to look into universal coverage again).
Although labour, injured workers and their advocates have continuously called for universal coverage, the government has failed to respond beyond expanding mandatory coverage in the construction industry. It is time all workers are given protection under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. [read full letter]