Ontario’s workers’ compensation administration has, in the last few years, proposed and implemented changes to policy and practice that increasingly adversely affect injured workers’ benefits, health and socioeconomic conditions. These exercises in cost-cutting, framed as “efficiencies” or “modernization”, are – despite government statements to the contrary – indeed being made “on the backs of injured workers”. They threaten the balance of interests (worker, employer, public) and the commitment to full justice (compensation for as long as disability lasts in an non-adversarial system) of the Meredith principles which Canadian compensation boards still claim as their foundation.
The Bancroft Institute for Studies on Workers’ Compensation and Work Injury held an April 2014 Research to Action Workshop in Toronto on this timely topic: Has the WCB/WSIB abandoned its mandate?
Here are selected presentations (more to follow) from the Workshop, together with a Legal Primer on terms used:
Jeffrey Hilgert, Assistant Professor at the School of Industrial Relations, Université de Montréal, studies international labor and human rights, focusing on occupational safety and health and employment injury benefits. Formerly a labour rights and anti-poverty activist in Minnesota, Dr Hilgert has received human rights awards, a Fulbright and Archibald Bush fellowships for his efforts. A key presenter also at last year’s “No half measures” Meredith Conference, he is author of the recently published “Hazard or hardship: crafting global norms on the right to refuse unsafe work” (Cornell University Press, 2013). The presentation considers what a rights-based approach would mean, the legal and social implications for injured workers.
- Keynote speech : The human rights of injured workers (48:32 mins)
Dave Wilken has been representing injured workers and advocating for their interests since 1990. Currently lawyer at Building Trades Workers’ Services, he formerly worked at the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO) from 1994 to 2009, Office of the Worker Adviser, and Injured Workers Consultants (IWC). A presenter also at the 2013 Meredith Conference, he is author of a 2012 analysis of the Arthurs Report on WSIB financing in which Arthurs critiqued the Board for not ensuring the integrity of its experience rating program – charging that the WSIB failed to meet the declared goals of improving, through financial incentives, employer occupational health and safety and return to work programs. This Bancroft presentation addresses the subsequent response of the Board in its new rate framework affirming insurance pricing equity for employers to be the only issue.
- Presentation: Experience rating (30:08 mins)
Maryth Yachnin is a staff lawyer for IAVGO, the community legal clinic that, after finding a disturbing pattern of surveillance and benefit cuts, made a freedom of information request for related Board documents. The internal guidelines revealed “red flags” for fraud that point to the most vulnerable workers – those with psychological illness, language barriers, precarious employment – as potentially subject to covert surveillance. A panelist at the 2013 Meredith Conference, her recent presentations address concerns with WSIB draft pre-existing policies and mental stress.
- Presentation: Surveillance (19:31 mins)
See also her video “Voodoo science”