No holiday from pain and hardship
For the 22nd year, on a cold December 9th at 11:00 am, injured workers, unions, advocates, and organizations will gather to deliver a message to Ontario’s Minister of Labour in Toronto. The message: injured workers do not get reprieve from their pain, nor can they afford basic necessities, let alone the frills that the holiday season provides to others. The compensation system that was set up to prevent injured workers from becoming burdens on their families and their communities at large is failing them today. The system has changed from focusing on compensating injured workers to be an insurance scheme for employers that is all about “bringing finality to files” and lowering employers’ costs.
Injured workers are being denied their basic human rights. Canada’s basic human right to “life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof” surely includes the right to receive fair compensation for work injury that allows the injured worker to be able to retain housing and to live with dignity and respect. The truth is that injured workers are some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society.
A 2010 Research Action Alliance on the Consequences of Work Injury (RAACWI) survey of injured workers found that:
- Injured workers experience nearly 4 times the rate of poverty for Ontario
- 1 in 5 workers lost their home after injury
- Incidence of subsidized housing more than doubled after injury
- 1 in 5 workers are on social assistance after injury
- 1 in 5 workers are living in extreme poverty post-injury (less than $10,000 per year. In fact, 41% reported an income of less than $15,000/year
- The report found a 13 fold increase in food bank usage post-injury
- ¼ of injured workers lost their car
- 61% of injured workers were unemployed after injury; prior to injury 89% were employed full time
- Almost half (46%) reported depression as a result of their workplace injury and ¾ of the local group have considered suicide
- 2/3 of IWs reported losing friends and 18% have lost family due to strained relationships
And injured workers didn’t ask to be in poverty. They gave up their right to sue employers for injury in return for a promise of fair compensation. As such, compensation is a right, NOT a benefit.
One hundred years ago, Chief Justice Sir William Meredith’s report formed the basis of Ontario’s Workers’ compensation system. At a recent conference to evaluate the last 100 years, Jim Sayre from the Community Legal Assistance Society in British Columbia coined the term “bold reformers” as he urged us to question much of today’s discourse and positions. Jeffrey Hilgert from the School of Industrial Relations, University of Montreal reminded us that the Meredith principles reflect basic human rights that have essentially been torn from injured workers.
We consider ourselves reminded, and we are indeed bold reformers. On Dec 9, 2013, injured workers, researchers, legal clinics, organizations, unions, and advocates will all come together again to share our assessment of the past and forge a path forward. While the forces against us try with all their might to divide us (indeed they are fearful of us uniting), we gather to celebrate our “unitedness” in struggling to change the system for the benefit of all. We unite because we have the same goals. Unequivocally, those goals are to ensure that Ontario’s system serves injured workers in today’s economy and provides the workers compensation in line with what Meredith envisioned 100 years ago.
- Join us in Toronto Monday December 9, 2013 in front of 400 University Avenue at 11:00 (click attached flyer).
- Plan an event in your community.
- Also share the Meredith website www.meredith100.ca because we will post presentations and information from the recent conference “No “Half Measures: Workers" Compensation 100 Years after Sir William Meredith”.