Platform for Change: Representation over Tokenism

The platform for Change states that labour and injured workers must have “Strong” Representation.  This more in-depth look at Worker Representation on the board is going to focus more on what defines strong then on the word Representation.

The best way to explain why this emphasis we can look at the 2015 Ontario Network of Injured workers Groups (ONIWG) Convention held in Toronto.  Knowing that WSIB Board member and Injured worker Scott Wilson worked only a few blocks from where the Convention was taking place, ONIWG President Eugene Lefrancois invited Mr. Wilson to attend the Conference.  Mr. Wilson offered to meet with Eugene in his office if he could leave the Convention.  ONIWG is the only province wide organization representing Injured Workers in Ontario and it’s leaders have met with Ministers on numerous occasions in fact Labour Minister Flynn attend the Conference and was there for well over an hour and spent time with everyone in the room.  Being represented by somebody who doesn’t speak to Injured Worker Groups outside his own community is not being represented at all.  It is important to note that the problem of Injured Worker Representation on the Board doesn’t rest with Mr. Wilson but with the system.  Let’s take a look at how we can make the Board stronger.

The first problem inherent to the current system is the way the Injured Worker Representative is selected.  The Provincial Organization representing Injured Workers are not consulted and even if they were consulted it would not be sufficient.  When the Ontario Public Service Employees Union set up the Disability Rights Caucus they brought together around twenty members with Disabilities and asked then to select the members and the Caucus has been filling it’s own vacancies ever since.  This gave us a voice that could not be silenced by the President of OPSEU.  Although they have wished they could on several occasions they also believe that give us Strong Representation meant we could make them a better union.  The same thing holds true for the Workers Compensation Board.  If Injured Workers are going to be given a place at the WSIB Board of Directors then that position has to be able to speak freely and for Injured Workers without fear of losing their position unless the positions they take at the Board don’t meet their mandate, Representing Injured Workers.

Even with that one person, alone he/she cannot adequately represent Injured Workers on the Board.  There has to be at least two injured Workers on the WSIB Board.  Injured Workers are affected more than any other group involved with the Board.  Many face lifetime disabilities, bring with it limitations never considered in their life plans, while employers though facing costs, seldom if ever do they create lifetime challenges.

Labour representation is not Injured Worker Representation. Although Labour Representation must be on the Board, it must be recognized that they have some differences in their agenda.  Many Injured Workers are not unionized, others have been terminated and therefore lost their Union Representation.

Lastly, an Injured Worker Representative should be Co-Chairing the Board of Directors.  If WSIB exists to provide compensation to Injured Workers then those Injured Workers Representatives should hold prominent positions on the Board.  The current token Injured Worker Representative chair’s neither the WSIB Board or any of it’s sub-committees.

Representation without strength is Tokenism.  We all should oppose token positions.

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