Weekly Update

Ontario Network of Injured Worker Groups

ONIWG declared December 9th an Injured Workers Day of Action. Protest were held across Ontario 

ONIWG Research Action Committee has met with the Deputy Labour Minister and discussed WSIB’s failure to track out comes.                          

Tuesdays Together

This Tuesday was a holiday and end of year celebration.  About twenty of us got together for a light lunch including homemade soup and a lot homemade desserts.  I am sorry if you missed it, as it was truly a great time. 

The Tuesday Togethers are going to take a break over the Christmas Holiday season and will begin again on January 7th with Eugene hosting a Paint Your Pain session.  It is my understanding that painting is not actually a requirement for attendance.  Actually, now that I think about it, neither is the pain.

In the Ontario Legislature

Bill 119, An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 

A private members bill 119 introduced by Wayne Gates, Niagara Falls, NDP, passed first reading and now goes to committee for review.  This is an attempt to stop deeming unless a workers refuses work in bad faith. 

Fundraising

Tickets are now available for the Labour Awards Dinner.  To get your tickets contact Janet at 472-6910 or Greg 345-7904.  The event is being held at the West Thunder Community Centre, on Friday , February 28th doors will open at six and meals will be served at 6:30   Tickets are 40.00  This is an important fundraiser for the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group so please be generous.

Articles to check out

This is a commentary by respected Lawyer Michael Spratt, who calls out the Ford Conservatives for cutting Legal Aid Ontario’s ability to do their job.  This time they are planning on the cuts not being noticed.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/opinion-smarter-stronger-justice-act-legal-aid-1.5393810

I am going to take Christmas off. but will be back in January. However or whatever you celebrate over this Christmas – New Years week stay safe, healthy and happy. See you in new decade.

Weekly Review 2

What’s a weekly review if it’s not weekly.  Here is our second in a row.

News from the AGM

We held our 33Annual General Meeting on Monday.  The Ontario Public Service Employees Union was very generous in providing us with use of their meeting hall free of charge.  A big thank you to them. 

I have posted a copy of the President’s Report on the website, be sure to check it out.  The treasurer and Trustee reports were also presented. Jules Tupker, Janet Patterson and Greg Snider were re-elected to the board.  Eugene Lefrancois was elected as Trustee. For those who don’t know, only one third of our board positions are up for election each year, with the successful candidates serving a three-year term. There are still some openings on the board.  Should anyone be interested in stepping up, please contact Janet Paterson at 472-6910

Longtime activist for Injured Workers, Bob Larocque chose not to stay on the Board. Through the years Bob has been a huge part of the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group.  For many years Bob and Moses Shepherd volunteered their time to successfully represent workers at the WSIB, until the Upper Canada Law Society of Ontario decided you needed to be a paralegal to represent workers.  Even after that setback he continued to support Injured Workers.  He played a significant role in locating our new office.  I hope you will pop by the office or meetings once in a while Bob, if only to share your humor and storytelling!  

BOARD EXECUTIVE

Janet Paterson (President)

Ted Bobrowski (Vice President)

Steve Mantis (Treasurer)

Jules Tupker (Secretary)

BOARD MEMBERS

Greg Snider

Lise Vaugeois

Chris Lawson

Diane Parker

Jim Littleford

Harry Sinoway

HONOURARY BOARD MEMBER

Moses Shepherd

TRUSTEE

Eugene Lefrancois

TBDIWSG’s Labour Awards Dinner

Plans have begun for the February 28th Labour Awards Dinner.  This is a fundraiser for the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group.  Without fundraising events like this one we will not be able to keep our office or do the many things that office allows us to do.

The event is scheduled for February 28th at the West Thunder Community Centre. Doors will open at 6pm and the meal will begin at 6:30 pm.  Tickets are $40.00 each.   If you purchase a table of 8 you will receive a coupon for a bottle of wine. 

Currently we have 4 awards to present: Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Labour Council, Prevention Link and of course the TBDIWSG   

Space is limited so get your tickets now.

Contact Janet Paterson at 472-6910 or Greg Snider at 345-7904

Articles of interest from the last week

Language Barriers and the WSIB

The Ontario Auditor General takes a strip off WSIB

CN workers were recently on strike.  The main issue was workplace safety. According to Occupational Health and Safety Canada there have been ten deaths in the last 2 years.

TBDIWSG President’s Report

Monday, December 9, 2019

Greetings Members of the Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group and friends,

Welcome to our Annual General Meeting this evening.  I want to thank you for your involvement and your support throughout this past year.  The challenges facing injured workers continue to grow and our voices are our only recourse.  I want to thank everyone who has served on our board this past year but also those who have committed to our cause over the past 34 years.  We continue to be a force.

Our board continues to look for ways to support the many causes that directly and indirectly affect injured workers and others who are marginalized.  There is no shortage of issues, particularly given the direction of our current government.  More and more we are seeing not only the need for political action but also the strength of everyone as they unite in solidarity to fight for basic rights.  We are also committed to supporting our various union advocates as they continue to fight for the rights of all workers.  There is no one other than the 1% who have not been negatively affected by our Ford government.

Our group continues to look for ways to let people know that we are here.  The compensation system is very complex and many don’t know where to turn following a negative decision letter regarding their injury.  Many workers who face permanent injuries isolate themselves as they struggle to keep their lives in order.  They are unaware that having someone to talk to who understands what they are going through can make a difference in their lives.  We can learn from each other.  Our weekly Tuesday group from 10 am to 12 noon offers a variety of social and learning opportunities in a supportive setting and open to everyone.

We continue our involvement with the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups.  Partnerships in research continue as they look for new opportunities to shine a light on the many practices by the WSIB and endorsed by the current government that hurt workers who have already been hurt at work.   Our group also has 2 Pro Bono Students from the Law School who are involved with research involving Canada’s accession to the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.   

We share office space with the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance and are open on Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm.  We offer a variety of volunteer opportunities in our office as well as 4 vacant seats on our board and ask that you talk to any of our board members if you would like to be involved in any way. 

In solidarity,

Janet Paterson    

Storyteller looking for stories

Hello folks this just came  to us through our friends at Canadian Injured Workers Alliance.  Kathy Tomlinson is a investigative reporter.   The stories of Injured Workers needs to be told but that decision is yours.

 Message from Kathy Tomlinson, Globe and Mail:

I need your help, please, if you are willing.

I am doing in-depth research for a major story and our aim is to push for positive, systemic change (some of you may have heard me talk about this when I attended the workers’ advocate session Sarah and Rolf hosted a few weeks back).

I am working hard to connect with injured workers who became addicted to painkillers, who also feel deficiencies in the WCB system contributed to their ordeals.

I also need to connect with families of injured workers – who died from unintentional or intentional overdose, or other complications from their painkiller addictions. 

If you know any family members whose loved ones ultimately died under these circumstances – workplace injury, painkiller addiction – who are willing to help, OR any injured workers struggling with this, please ask them to contact me confidentially at ktomlinson@globeandmail.com or at 604-631-6628 – or please send me their contact info.  Many thanks.

           Sarah O’Leary

           778.331.8867

           sarah@harrisonoleary.com

TBDIWSG Weekly Review – returns

I am recommitting myself to try and keep this going.  I have struggled with time and other commitments but have decide to set this up like a work day.  Please hang with me.  If you have something I should include in my weekly updates please send them to me with the subject title “For IW website”. 

Thank you

Greg Snider

Tuesday’s Time Out

Take some time out and come out to our office at 1201 Alloy Drive from 11 am to 1pm.   Time to have fun, learn and vent your frustrations with WSIB.  (Management reserves the right to limit swearing.  Furniture kicking and tossing must be pre-approved.)

This Tuesday, December 3rd, Eugene Lefrancois will be facilitating a “Paint Your Pain” session. 

Next week December 10th, we welcome Debra Shaft, a Psychiatrist, who has provided free counseling to WSIB Clients.

Annual General Meeting

Our Annual General Meeting is scheduled for December 9th at 326 Memorial Avenue.  The OPSEU Building located between Merle Mae’s and Tim Hortons.  There is a Memorial bus stop right in front of the building.   The doors will open at 6:30pm. Everyone is welcome.  There will be snack and drinks.

Awards Dinner Fundraiser

In an effort to fill our coffers and express a thank you to our Labour supporters we will be holding our first Labour Awards Dinner. We have chosen, February 28th or Reputative Strain Injury Day, for this important event.  

We have, to date, three groups presenting Awards; ourselves, the Workers Health and Safety Centre and the Thunder Bay and District Labour Council.  We have a fourth presenter in the works with hopefully more to come.  

Tickets are $40.00 and will be available December 15th.  The perfect Christmas present for the union member in your house.   

A Disability Strategy

The Centre for Work Disability Research Policy has been working on developing a strategy for the past two years with funding from the Federal Liberal Government.

In the past, Disability Groups have seldom focussed on work issues (due to employer biases and high unemployment rates for persons with Disabilities) but now more groups are looking at work and disability. The focus is on helping employers to employ people with disabilities and to help support them in their workplace.

Our own Steve Mantis is heading to Ottawa to provide assistance to this worthy project.   We know Steve will provide an important input to the final outcome.   As always, thank you for your time and commitment Steve.

Fordley’s Believe it or Not

November 18, 2019, Ontario House of Commons.  Excerpt from Hansard Transcript:

Jane McKenna: Yes, I would, Speaker. The bill I am introducing today proclaims April 28 in each year Health and Safety at Work Day. In doing so, we’ll be bringing Ontario in line with World Day for Safety and Health at Work, established by the International Labour Organization, an agency of the United Nations, established in 1919.

Yes folks that was Ford Government’s Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour.  Don’t worry It isn’t their intent to replace the International Day of Mourning.  In fact, at second reading the day has been moved to Health and Wellness week in May.  It appears to me that an injured worker walked into her office and complained about how little was being done on April 28th – the International day of Mourning – and since it would cost the government no money or time (time – like investigating facts before writing a bill), they wrote a bill. It was that or push her minister to do something meaningful.

Focus on Workers Rights and Disability

on Dec 01, 2019 01:21 pm

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an occasion observed annually on December 3 since 1992, launches a weeklong series of events putting the focus on disability rights, inclusion and accessibility. In joining the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2010 and its Optional Protocol in 2018, Canada committed to implementing measures to protect and promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities without discrimination, enable participation in all aspects of society and on an equal basis with others, and remove barriers to accessibility.

This past September the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups brought concerns of those with work-acquired permanent disabilities to the UN Committee reviewing Canada, arguing in their submission that through their use of deeming the provinces’ workers’ compensation systems’ violate Canada’s obligations under the CRPD [read full submission Deeming Laws and Practices as Violations of the Rights of People with Work-acquired Disabilities in Canada ]

Among IDPWD ’19 events:

Do The Rights Thing: National Human Rights Policy Forum. Dec. 3, 2019. Shaw Centre, Ottawa – an intersectional approach, looking at human rights obligations as an employer or service provider under the new Accessible Canada Act and rights under the Optional Protocol, the individual complaints mechanism
Working Together: One Voice More Choice. Dec. 7, 2019. Metro Hall Rm 308-309, Toronto 2-4 p.m. Disability and Work in Canada Conference 2019 In Ottawa Dec. 4-5 the 


Disability and Work in Canada Conference 2019 will review a revised national strategy to improve the level of employment of persons with disabilities and identify key steps in its implementation [see report Moving Forward Together]. Topics on the agenda include an update on the CRPD, school to work transition, workplace accommodation and addressing unconscious bias and stigma.

Ahead of the Conference, the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP) organized an Ontario meeting on the Strategy. Among recommendations proposed for further discussion:

1) Address poverty and income security among people with disabilities by making the Disability Tax Credit a refundable payment, payable monthly like the Canada Child Benefit.

2) Maintain the present definition of disability for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

3) Eliminate the barriers within the Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP that create a disincentive to employment by making the integration of employment earnings with benefits more user friendly.

4) Build strong working relationships between disability organizations.

5) Support a broad based coalition on inclusive workplaces and societies.

6) Develop a robust federal system for the collection of data on health and disability and employment and income.

WSIB’s chief operating officer resigns effective Dec. 31

the following article was written by Ian Harvey.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) chief operating officer Brian Jarvis has resigned.

Jarvis will leave the job effective Dec. 31. Jennifer Andersen, WSIB’s chief service excellence officer, has been appointed as interim chief operating officer.

Jarvis had borne the brunt of attacks from critics as he restructured the WSIB to streamline claim processing.

Critics claimed his solutions were making things worse for claimants and resulted in a massive backlog, with many claimants unable to get compensation for their work-related injuries.

WSIB CEO Tom Teahen did not reference Jarvis’s resignation at a Nov. 22 press conference when asked about the backlog.

The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that Jarvis rolled out a new model which ended the practice of a dedicated case worker and instead switched to a pool system where cases were supposed to be triaged according to their severity.

It reported that Jarvis posted on a WSIB blog that “95 per cent of claim decisions were now made in 10 days, up from 89 per cent in the summer, and 60 per cent of injured workers were back on the job within 10 days, compared to 51 per cent previously.”

However, other posters, disputed that, the Star reported, with some saying it takes up to a year for some cases.

Last September the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups went to a United Nations committee to ask for a review of the WSIB practice which saw injured workers declared employable in “phantom jobs” and cutting off their payments.

Teahen said only that the $2-billion liability on the books had been retired and that it would give the government more headroom going forward.

Critics say that change has come on the backs of injured workers.

Law firm Fink & Bornstein noted in a July newsletter that injured worker benefit claim costs by the WSIB were $4.7 billion in 2009 and administration cost $600 million. By 2018, it says, claims were just $1.8 billion and administration cost $800 million.

“Within those 10 years, the number of accidents decreased by approximately 15 per cent and wages increased approximately 22.4 per cent,” it noted.

“The financial statements of the past five years are a clarion call for the WSIB to stop its current theme of lackadaisical claims processing and move to securing injured workers functional enhancement using the financial resources it has at hand.”

The Daily Commercial News was unaware of Jarvis’s resignation which was announced last week. Teahan said only that cases are continuing to grow at the WSIB with a 33 per cent increase from 2015 to 2018.

“Cases are growing and will continue to grow,” he said.

The Star also reported earlier this year that the Ontario Compensation Employees Union poll of WSIB employees found 90 per cent of those asked reported work stress was impacting their personal lives and 92 per cent blamed it on understaffing.

Job-related deaths in Canada dramatically under-reported, study suggests

Authors estimate true number of workplace deaths 10 times greater than official figures

Last week at the joint Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and Ontario Network of Injured Worker Groups’ (ONIWG) Workers Compensation Conference Steven Bittle presented on research done by himself, Ashley Chen and Jasmine Hebert regarding Work Related Injuries in Canada. Clearly the information we are using has been flawed. Rather then make a poor attempted of explaining his findings I have inserted an article by Jacques Marcoux and Katie Nicholson which was published by CBC News.

Jacques MarcouxKatie Nicholson · CBC News · Posted: Jan 11, 2019 6:00 AM ET | Last Updated: January 12

According to a recent study, the number of workplace fatalities being reported in Canada is dramatically underestimated and could as much as 10 times higher than is generally captured by occupational health and safety statistics. (CBC)

Close to 1,000 Canadians die each year because of their jobs, according to official numbers from Canada’s workers’ compensation agencies. But a new study says that figure is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true extent of work-related deaths across the country.

The study — titled Work-related deaths in Canada — argues the widely quoted statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Board of Canada (AWCBC) should not solely be used as a benchmark for work-related fatalities, as these figures only take into account approved compensation claims.

As a result, thousands of deaths — such as workers exempt from coverage, stress-induced suicides, commuting fatalities and occupational disease — are missing from occupational health and safety statistics, it says.

“This situation is akin to crime statistics only ever including solved homicides, therein leaving the impression that attempted murders, unsolved murders or suspicious deaths are not a concern,” the study’s authors wrote.

Steve Bittle, an associate criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, spearheaded the research.(CBC)

Our notion of what constitutes a workplace fatality is too narrow and it is a mistake to count work-related fatalities through our compensation regimes, says Steven Bittle, an associate criminology professor at the University of Ottawa who spearheaded the research, which was published in November.

Last year, workers’ compensation boards across the country approved a total of 904 claims involving fatalities. About one-third of those cases involved acute accidents, with the rest due to longer-term illnesses from occupational exposure.

Bittle’s team estimates that a more accurate figure hovers between 10,000 to 13,000 deaths annually.

Non-reporting and under-reported fatalities

Depending on the province, between 70 and 98 per cent of the workforce is covered by a public workers’ compensation system. But that means there are well more than two million workers in Canada whose deaths would escape official statistics.

Excluded occupations could include the self-employed, domestic helpers, banking employees and farmers, among others.

The latest AWCBC figures show that in Ontario, 24 per cent of the approximate 7.1 million working Ontarians are not covered by a the public workers’ compensation regime.

Bittle’s paper also cites a 2015 study from the University of British Columbia that found an average of six fatalities per year that were not on WorkSafeBC’s radar. Many of these cases involved deaths that occurred in hospital, days after the workplace event.

The authors further estimate about 64 farming deaths escape official statistics each year.

The study estimates about about 64 farming deaths aren’t reflected in annual occupational health and safety statistics. (CBC)​

Morag Marjerison, a farm-safety consultant based in Brandon, Man., agrees that the dearth of data is problematic. In Manitoba, farm owners and their family members are exempt from mandatory coverage.

“I think it’s really a problem in that we don’t ever see the true picture. Whenever I’m looking at training, trying to educate

, we’re always showing what look like low statistics, when we know that’s not the reality of what’s happening,” she said.

“I think if everyone that works in safety saw the reality of how frequently the same things happen over again and again, attention could be paid to the bigger issues.”

Commuters and bystanders

One of the more contentious elements of Bittle’s study, he admits, is the idea that deaths while commuting to and from work are worth including in workplace-fatality statistics. He estimates there are about 460 commuting deaths a year — and the goal of their inclusion is to start a conversation about some broader issues.

“We live in a culture of presenteeism, where people are expected to be at work — at least culturally expected to be at work, if not through pressures in their workforce — regardless of whether they’re ill or whether the weather conditions are such that they shouldn’t be driving at that particular time,” he said.

The 2013 death of an Alberta intern who was killed while driving home after a 16-hour shift at a local radio station highlighted the potentially dangerous relationship between commuting and workload.

The study also suggests that non-workers who die collaterally could be included, such as a spouse who dies after repeatedly being exposed to asbestos from years of washing their partner’s clothes, or a pedestrian crushed in a scaffolding collapse while walking near a job site.

Suicides: ‘Extreme stresses’

In 2017, a Saskatchewan man employed by a small rural municipality took his own life after struggling with mental-health issues found to have been exacerbated by his work. The province’s WCB partly attributed the death to his employer.

Situations like these are rarely covered, and the study suggests the number of suicide-related claims is drastically underestimated.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada published a study last year that found Canadian employees reported workplace stress as the primary cause of their mental-health concerns.

Bittle believes between 10 and 17 per cent of annual suicides in Canada could be classified as work-related, representing a range of 400 to 800 fatalities each year.

Mara Grunau, executive director of the Centre for Suicide Prevention, agrees that while the links between work and mental health exist, proving it caused a person to take their life is difficult.

“In our culture, we spend hours and hours at work. And the way we feel about work, and the way we interact with the people at work, affects who we are,” she said. “If work is a miserable place to be, it affects other aspects of our life.”

Province takes aim at workplace protections

Once again Sara Mojtehedzadeh has written an article that deserves mention on the website, as does the Toronto Star for giving her a place for these important stories. If you want to subscribe to a newspaper you could do worse then the Toronto Star

Province takes aim at workplace protections

Inspectors who look into workers’ complaints will be reduced, union bulletin shows

The Ministry of Labour is aiming to reduce the number of inspectors tasked with investigating workplace abuses, according to an internal union bulletin obtained by the Star.

A government hiring freeze instituted last year already slowed plans to double the ministry’s complement of employment standards officers, introduced under the Liberals in 2017 through Bill 148. That legislation mandated hiring 175 new officers. Around 75 were hired before the Liberals were voted out and the hiring freeze announced.

Now, the ministry “wants to reduce the number of officers to the pre-Bill 148 levels,” according to a May memo from the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union to its members.

“The employer has come up with a plan to reduce numbers through attrition within the next three years.”

Minister of Labour spokesperson Christine Bujold did not answer a direct question on specific numbers, but said the ministry was “not proposing any involuntary reductions in Employment Standards Officers.”

She said a shift to “digital service delivery” would help “reduce claims by workers as employers are given digital tools to ensure compliance.”

“This shift will allow Ministry of Labour inspectors to focus on high-risk employers,” she said.

This year’s provincial budget cut $11 million from the ministry’s budget.

New employer self-audit tools will “modernize and streamline” enforcement efforts by helping employers to “educate themselves” on their workplace obligations, the ministry has said.

Employment standards officers investigate complaints and inspect workplaces for issues like failing to pay minimum wage, overtime, or public holiday pay. They do not deal with health and safety issues.

A 2016 report by two independent experts was commissioned by the Ministry of Labour to review the province’s workplace standards.

The report found that Ontario faces “serious” and extensive problems enforcing basic employment rights.

“We conclude that there is a serious problem with enforcement of Employment Standards Act (ESA) provisions,” the report reads. “While most employers likely comply or try to comply with the ESA, we conclude that there are too many people in too many workplaces who do not receive their basic rights.”

Avvy Go, director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, said she is concerned about what reduced enforcement staffing will mean for vulnerable workers in the province.

“Based on our clinic’s over 30 years experience working with low-income workers in precarious employment, enforcement is the key to ensuring their rights are being protected,” she said.

“For many years, we’ve been pushing for having stronger enforcement. We got some under the last government during the last months of their term, and it’s very sad to see that small bit of change being rolled back.”

In 2017-18, the Ministry of Labour had 271 employment standards officers – up from 198 the previous year, before Bill 148.

Ministry blitzes in the past regularly found violations in more than 75 per cent of workplaces inspected. In response, the previous Liberal government pledged to hire 175 new employment standards officers and aim to inspect one in 10 Ontario workplaces.

After the change in government and a hiring freeze was instituted, ministry staff were also instructed not to initiate any new proactive employment standards inspections, according to an internal memo previously obtained by the Star.

According to the memo, the move was motivated by a significant backlog of employment standards claims filed by workers – exacerbated by a “discretionary spending freeze and subsequent suspension of recruitment” at the ministry.

Bujold said ensuring compliance with the Employment Standards Act was “very important to the Ford PC government,” which was why the ministry was “focusing on digital service delivery that will enhance compliance support and provide better customer support.”

“This approach is expected to reduce claims by workers as employers are given digital tools to ensure compliance with the Act,” she said.

Proactive inspections, which are initiated at the behest of the ministry rather than an individual worker’s complaint, are more resource intensive, but also far more effective at recovering unpaid wages, according to the ministry’s own data.

“Having strong enforcement is the only way to make sure many of these employers will follow the law and give the workers what they earned,” Go said.

“We’re talking about sometimes not even paying the minimum wage, the very basic requirements under the ESA.”

Real Truth from Real People

I have just become aware of a site that gives Workers a chance to tell their stories. The Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy is a national organization that works with the Ontario Network of Injured Worker Groups and many other organizations across Ontario to develop research on disabilities and work.

As part of this work they have produced several videos which can be viewed at http://www.crwdp.ca/en/stories . These are some incredible stories well worth hearing. Included in this list is on by our own Board member Eugene.