Labour Minister Kevin Flynn – Friend or Foe or …….

It has been a very busy couple of weeks so I will start by apologizing for taking so long to put something up on the Website.

Labour Minister,Kevin Flynn, meets with Injured Workers three times in less than two weeks, but does that mean better treatment for people who get injured at work. While let’s take a look at those three meetings.

The first occurred on June 1st , Injured Workers Day, when the Minister meet with demonstrators  outside the Ministry of Labour Toronto Head office.  Injured Workers stood side by side with activist from numerous Unions and Social Justice Organizations as the Minister came out of the building.  At the mike he made three significant comments.  First he advised that a Bill was introduced to the house that would fix a previous “oversight” and insure that spouses would be entitled to Survivor Benefits even though their deceased spouse was no longer receiving employment income at the time of death. Mr. Flynn’s second important message was also related to this same Bill.  He advised that the part of this motion which was to bring an end of the 72 month lockin was not included, so that they could do a further review.  Third he made mention of implementing a COLA, or Cost of Living Adjustment, for Injured Worker’s WSIB income.   The interesting part was that he was making a personal commitment to try and not a Government commitment to implement it.  In his own words he had to “convince my colleagues”

The next meeting occurred that Wednesday,  June 3rd at the Ontario Network of Injured Worker Group Annual General Meeting.  The Minister came at supper and walked around to the room talking to every Injured Worker that wished to talk with him.  Afterwards he spoke to the members largely repeating what he had said on Monday.  It was interesting that he was careful to explain that the 72 Month Lock In was still under review and may still be cancelled at a future date.  Some of the questions from Injured Workers brought out some interesting responses.  The first question centered on the makeup of the WSIB Board itself.  The Board Member placed to represent Injured Workers would not attend the Conference or give a reason for not attending even though he works in Toronto.  It was the feeling of the Conference attendees that this gentleman doesn’t represent Injured Workers at Board meetings.   The ONIWG member asked the Minister why one of ONIWG recommended appointees doesn’t have a member on the Board as a way to resolve the above problem.  The Minister responded by talking about successful Boards having a balance between the chair and the other members of the Board.  He went on to say that he was only hearing from the chair of the Board and that was strange since he appointed all the members of the Board not just the chair.  Very interesting comment.

The third meeting was here in Thunder Bay, where he and local MPP Michael Gravelle, met with four board members the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group, Jules Tupker, Eugene Lefrancois, Steve Mantis and myself Greg Snider.  This meeting lasted almost an hour and there were several issues discussed. We talked about the Platform for Change and the Minister advised that he had read it and found it to be a good document.  Although he did not point out anything in the document that stood out for him, I was left with the impression he had read.  We spent a fair amount of time discussing what happens to workers who do not make a quick recovery and return to work.  When the meeting first started the Minister talked about a worker who was injured playing soccer, but misrepresented the facts so that he could collect WSIB and that he knew others that were working and should be off receiving WSIB. We pointed out to the Minister that the people we were talking about were off for far longer than a soccer injury.  We spent some time talking about the Experience Rating Program and the Minister asked about what we feel the solution to the problem should be. Of course the answer is in the Platform for Change but we walked him through what we thought should be the process.  As the meeting wrapped up he expressed his wish to meet with us again.

Although the three meetings went well, I am still not sure if the Minister is the saviour who will bring true balance to Workers Compensation in Ontario. On the one hand he has tabled a Bill in the house to correct a serious oversight, has withdrawn a part of that Bill which could have had serious repercussion to some workers, he has spoken directly to injured workers and he seems to listen to what we have to say with an understanding that the employers voice is more other heard.  On the other hand he still starts a WSIB conversation by focusing on the cheater and not the Injured Worker,  he can’t get support among his colleague for a simple Cost of Living Adjustment, the 72 month lock in is still on the table just not in the bill and the Bill which is very good is the smallest of steps need to fix a very broken, yet fixable System

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