Injured workers’ association seeks to lobby government

To the Expositor:

The Manitoulin and North Shore Injured Workers is the newest addition to the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. Our mandate is to stop and reverse the changes to the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) benefit scheme that have resulted in reductions to the financial support received by injured workers. We call upon all injured workers from Manitoulin and the North Shore to join us in this endeavour.

In 1910 the Ontario government appointed Sir William Meredith to head a Royal Commission dealing with the creation of a workmen’s compensation system in the province. Meredith listened to workers and he listened to industrialists and he proposed a system that he felt was fair and just to both sides. There were five main aspects to his system, which have become known as the Meredith Principles. These are: that the system is a no fault system; that it is non adversarial; that an injured worker be fairly compensated for as long as the disability lasts; that the employers across the province pay for the system and that there be a collective liability among employers; and that the board to be set up to administer the plan be completely independent from the government of the day.

This system has been radically altered since its inception, to the point where if Justice Meredith were alive today, he wouldn’t recognise the system he created. Gone is the notion of compensation for as long as the disability lasts. Now workers receive loss of earning benefits only until age 65. Gone is the non-adversarial system envisioned by Justice Meredith. Employers have a financial incentive to reduce claims and often hire lawyers to fight a worker’s claim, which puts the worker into an extremely adversarial context if he wishes to pursue an appeal. These are two examples of the erosion of Meredith’s principles. There are plenty of others.

We hope to stop what we see as the systematic dismantling of what was once a fair benefit scheme for workers who are injured on the job. Workers are being denied a fair and just compensation for their injuries, and the people of Ontario need to understand what is occurring and support positive change so that the board returns to the principles that were its original guide.

Sharon Montgomery
Manitoulin and North Shore Injured Workers