Letter to the Editor – Suggestions to Fix a Broken WSIB

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2017 10:30 am

Open Letter to Premier Wynne in regard to the National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured at Work, April 28:

I am disappointed that the only reference to future directions for the WSIB in the minister of Labour’s mandate letter is “Continue to ensure that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board provides a fair and equitable system for injured workers and employers while supporting it in its efforts to eliminate the unfunded liability by 2021-2022, and also reducing overall premiums on average.” There is no mention to protecting the health, safety and security of injured and disabled workers and their families.

Yes, the WSIB has reduced their unfunded liability by over $7 billion — but that has come at a cost borne by disabled workers and their families. Financial benefits for injured and disabled workers have been cut by billions of dollars. There are record numbers of appeals awaiting resolution at the WSIA Tribunal. Disabled workers are forced back to work too soon and close to 45 per cent of those are hurt a second or third time — increasing their permanent impairment. And in response, the WSIB denies their subsequent claim blaming it on pre-existing conditions.

Is this a fair trade-off so the WSIB can have a reserve fund of $20 billion?

Can I suggest an evidence-based approach? You mention that in the mandate letter but the WSIB refuses to collect data on the long-term consequences of work injury. Requiring the WSIB to track long-term outcomes could be the first step to creating the evidence necessary to make informed decisions about the lives of real people — those 60,000 Ontario workers who have injuries or diseases at work who must take time off to heal every year in Ontario.

When a significant portion of these workers end up permanently disabled, unemployed, losing their families and living in poverty, how does that promote economic growth and an Ontario that we can be proud of?

I have been working with independent academic researchers for the past 20 years to better understand the system put in place to support workers when they are injured or made sick on the job. The poor outcomes for far too many workers have been documented in peer-reviewed journals, and yet the WSIB management chose to ignore this evidence. Does this sound like a fair and equitable system? I think not.

So, on this National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured at Work, please help us to restore balance to the WSIB, an important piece of our social safety net in Ontario.

Steve Mantis

Thunder Bay

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