Members of the Windsor-area’s labour community are calling for changes to the operations of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Brian Hogan, president of the Windsor & District Labour Council, led a rally of about 30 people outside the local WSIB office on Ouellette Avenue Monday morning calling for more support for injured workers.
The rally was one of many across the province staged in conjunction with the Ontario Federation of Labour’s protest at the Ministry of Labour in Toronto. The OFL released a report in November which alleged the WSIB has been ignoring the recommendations of doctors.
Hogan said because WSIB is funded by employers, the WSIB puts a greater strain on taxpayers when they deny injury claims.
“Their healthcare ends up being OHIP,” said Hogan. “They should be getting paid their healthcare through WSIB, so us as taxpayers fork out money because WSIB slashed the employee.”
Injured workers can also slip into poverty without their income, which requires support from social assistance, said Hogan.
Rolly Marentette, a Unifor Local 444 retiree and long-time advocate for injured workers, said it’s going to take the public’s help to create any real change. He said the situation has been getting worse.
“When they discredit the reports they get from doctors, they’re calling doctors liars,” said Marentette. “This is a group of people that are bound by oath to take care of the people who go to them for treatment.”
Ahead of the release of the OFL report, the WSIB issued a new release which said the organization relies on the “professionalism and expertise” of healthcare professionals across the province.
“Our commitment to quality health care programs and services has been fundamental in helping workers achieve early, safe and sustainable recovery and return to work,” the release stated.
The news release also quoted a study by the Institute for Work and Health, which found the average earning replacement rate for all injured workers was 105 per cent of the non-injured group.
According to the WSIB, over 200,000 claims are registered every year.
“Today, 92 per cent of injured workers are back at work within one year of their injury at full wages,” the release stated. “Fewer than 2 per cent of claims are appealed, and in 2015, we have received the fewest number of appeals since 1989.”
Stacey Modolo said she was visiting the WSIB for her daughter’s case and decided to join the protesters. She said the low appeal rate could be due to people simply giving up.
“It goes from physical to mental and you get to the point where you’re just overwhelmed emotionally and you just say, ‘Forget it. I can’t fight them anymore,’” said Modolo, who added her daughter has been working on her case since the end of September.
Essex MPP Taras Natyshak said he supports a “complete investigation on the actions of WSIB.”
“The WSIB thinks there’s a whole group of people that are ready to commit fraud every day they walk into work,” said Natyshak to the crowd. “The fraud is right here under the Government of Ontario. You have to fix this system. It is far too long that it’s been broken.”