Following an all-night vigil on May 31, 2012, injured workers, organizations, and unions will stand together at Ontario’s legislature on Injured Workers Day—June 1, to remind the Ontario government that in 1914 workers gave up their right to sue employers in exchange for a system where workers were to receive compensation for injuries and illnesses caused by work.
The workers compensation system envisioned by Chief Justice Sir William Meredith almost a century ago was to be a no-fault system paid for by employers to compensate workers who became injured or diseased from the workplace. Employers would not face lawsuits nor lose their businesses, and in exchange workers were to receive compensation related to their wages for as long as their injury lasted, and the injured worker would not be a burden on their relatives or the community at large.
Somehow our system of compensation has turned into an insurance scheme catering to employers as clients, rather than to the injured workers who are the ones maimed by work, forever changed, yet still without the right to sue. Once again injured workers must fight the onslaught of rhetoric as we defend what the compensation system was supposed to mean against commissioned for consultant reports such as the recent KPMG report (WSIB Adjudication and Claims Administration (ACA) Program Value for Money Audit Report) that aim to slash injured workers’ rights even further.
Insulting is KPMG’s recommendation that the aging process ought to be considered when awarding benefits—doesn’t KPMG know that Meredith dispensed with that argument back in 1913 when it was raised by employers? According to Meredith, employers should take the worker as he or she is at the time of injury, and not excuse themselves from compensating that injury due to speculating about worker health, earning power, and aging processes in future years.
The fact is that employers pay less for compensation than ever. In 1996 employers paid 3.20 per $100 of payroll. Now they pay 2.26. Employers are earning 2012 dollars and paying 1980’s prices for workers’ compensation coverage. With the KPMG report recommendations making it harder for injuries and re-occurrences to be recognized, blaming old age to deny benefits, and lowering awards for pain and suffering, among other things, employers will be getting off scot-free while injured workers are pushed away from the employer funded system that Meredith created, to the taxpayer funded agencies such as CPP and social assistance. The cost of workplace injuries, fatalities, and occupational disease ought to be borne by employers—not taxpayers.
While the KPMG Report shows much concern about employers’ bottom line, it is injured workers who need the attention and protection of the system, the government, the WSIB, and the public. If injured workers are barred from suing their employers for injury, they should not receive half measures.
On March 9, 2012, the WSIB’s released its 2012-2016 strategic plan. In it, they commit to the Meredith principles. The problem is—their recollection isn’t the same as ours. Join us as we go to Queen’s Park and remind Ontario of those principles that formulated the origin and intention of the workers compensation system set up in 1914—the system that was supposed to be non-adversarial, paid for by employers, and that was to give workers the dignity to not be a burden on their relatives and the community at large, where they could raise their families and live their lives with dignity.
We will start this year’s events with an all-night vigil at Queen’s Park on May 31 at 4 pm at Queen’s Park in Toronto, (the afternoon before Injured Workers Day) where injured workers will hold a vigil to highlight their call for fairness. The vigil will continue throughout the evening, overnight, and into the June 1, 2010 main event. Please join us at the vigil and join us as we gather at 11:00 am at Queen’s Park or at any other event across Ontario. Click here for the Toronto flyer.
The London event will be held Friday June 1, 2012 at the WSIB Building in London (148 Fullarton Street) from 1130-2:00. Click here for flyer for London event.