by Odoardo di Santo
The WSIB is back in the storm. This time for a colossal mistake. It will have to repay $42 million to 100,000 injured workers who received less than they were due due to a code error by the Board.
These are sums up to 40 thousand dollars for some workers.
Without anyone on the Board noticing it except for an injured worker who had to fight to have the error recognized by appealing the WSIB’s denial to the Tribunal.
Incredible to say an error for 20 years. On the one hand there is the moral aspect that has seen the injured deprived of rights sanctioned by current legislation of which workers however have experienced restrictive measures for decades.
On the other hand, there is the incompetence and negligence of an organization that is stubborn in not correcting a code error for twenty years.
Board Chairman and CEO Jeff Lang came up with a witty quip “We screwed up”.
Making a half-admission to recognize that “workers have the right to be frustrated”.
As if it were to be expected that workers would rejoice in having been victims of a rip-off for two decades.
The WSIB is now sending letters to more than 100,000 injured workers informing them of the blunder and that they will be reimbursed once the WSIB portal confirms their identity. We will see.
For the Minister of Labor Monte McNaughton everything seems fine indeed he hastened to praise (yes to praise) the effort of the WSIB to correct the error.
Without blushing he added that: “We have appointed a new leadership to the WSIB with a mandate to put the house in order and that is exactly what they are doing.”
Incidentally , Jeff Lang was appointed CEO in February 2022, 19 months ago.
But the mistake goes back to 1998 when the method of calculating benefits based on the cost of living was changed.
“It was a human error,” Jeff Lang says, “…._ a code error… the checks were sent and nobody noticed.”
For him it’s the end of the story.
Twenty years later in 2018 the code was rewritten, this time with the correct amounts.
But no one noticed the initial mistake.
None of the 3040 employees of the WSIB?
And not because the WSIB was not informed.
Indeed, an injured person asked the Board to correct the error concerning him.
But the Board as usual denied the complaint.
The injured worker had to appeal to the Workplace Safety and Appeal Tribunal (WSIAT) which in 2019 decided in favor of the worker because he had been “shortchangend” from the system (the sentence uses this word that in Italian can mean cheated).
The OFL (Ontario Federation of Labour) also had to intervene to overcome the resistance of the Board to implement the WSIAT decision..
The Board wants to close the embarrassing matter as soon as possible.
“This is the best we can do,” said the WSIB President. As usual.
But the president of the OFL Patty Coates pointed out that all is not well Madame la Marchesa.
This colossal error is another sign of a “broken” system.
It takes much more than a goodwill gesture by the Board to repair a system that workers and widows see as “failed and inclined to favor the interests of employers.”
As however has been the case since 1914 when the Workers Compensation Board was established in Ontario.
The system needs a thorough reform that makes it an independent body based on the principle of justice for injured workers who are victims of accidents at work.
Otherwise , injured workers will have to struggle and be subject to frustration and disappointment even when it comes to a code error.