Ontario’s workers’ compensation system under attack, charges former WSIB Chair

Odoardo di Santo In a bluntly worded opinion piece in the Toronto Star (June 27 2014) [read here], former Board Chair Odoardo di Santo details how the fairness and balance at the core of Ontario’s workers’ compensation system are being eroded to save money .

Cost savings to reduce an “unfunded liability” – built up over decades by keeping employers’ contributions (rates) artificially low – are being achieved at the expense of injured workers and Board employees. Under current WSIB president, David Marshall, appointed in 2010 with a $400,000 salary and 20% performance bonus,:

“denied claims increased by 50 per cent. Benefits to injured workers have been reduced by $631 million; the rehabilitation program has been decimated; long-term wage loss benefits have been reduced by 28 per cent; hundreds of WSIB employees have been laid off; and injured workers’ pensions have been reduced by 31.3 per cent….”

The volume of resulting appeals has choked the system and brought unacceptable delays.

Granted unprecedented authority in 2011 by the government to change most policies without Board approval, Marshall is poised to implement a policy on “pre-existing conditions” that will overturn long-standing policy and practice that compensation will be granted if the injury is a significant factor in causing the worker’s disability. In fact, injured workers filing claims already are routinely being warned by the WSIB that their injury may be determined more likely related to natural aging or underlying pre-existing conditions.

In drawing attention to the fact that the Board has no legal authority to deny benefits because of pre-existing conditions, di Santo echoes many responses to the draft policies. And, as the submission of Ontario’s Office of the Worker Adviser cautions, if adopted, these draft policies will be the subject of legal challenges for years to come.