Injured workers group calls for revamping of workers compensation system

The Manitoulin North Shore Injured Workers Group held ceremonies this past Sunday, in recognition of the National Day of Mourning, April 28. In photo back row left to right is Michael Shain, Gilles Daigle, and Don Skrumeda. In front row, left to right, is Gary Hyrtsak, Willow and Herne Steelegrave.

AUNDECK OMNI KANING—The WSIB workers compensation system is so far out of whack that it needs to be fundamentally revamped or reworked, says a member of the Manitoulin North Shore Injured Workers Group (MNSIWG).

This was the sentiment shared by Michael Shain at the MNSIWG ceremony marking the National Day of Mourning held April 28. “But for this to take place, political will is needed and this just doesn’t seem to be there. That is why (MNSIWG) is not going to be silent and we are going to continue to speak our minds with the current system.”

Gary Hyrtsak, chair of the MNSIWG said, “again today we are having the Day of Mourning ceremonies, to remember all those workers who have been injured or killed in industrial accidents at work.” He pointed out 300 people died in workplace accidents (in Ontario) in 2017 and 30,000 were injured. 

“The province of Ontario has been weakening the legislation that is supposed to protect those who have been injured or killed in workplace accidents,” said Mr. Hrytsak. “That is why it is imperative that people who are injured or know someone who has been injured or killed keep pressing the unions, politicians and municipalities for changes.”

Mr. Hrytsak pointed out, “one thing that all of us who have suffered workplace accidents has in common is that each worker was there to earn a living. Not to suffer injuries or to die. But many people over the years have not returned to their families after work.”

MNSIWG Founder Michael Shain said, “the legislation and protections for workers that had been built has been weakened by laws  relating to labour, minimum wage and other issues and it has affected common folk.” 

“The government is supposed to be there for the people,” said Mr. Shain. “So it’s hard to understand how they and the WSIB are making it even more difficult for people who are injured or killed at the workplace to get what they should be.”

“The province is not focusing on the best interest of workers,” said Mr. Shain. “The Workers Compensation Board was founded at the outset of World War I. Workers gave up substantial rights to access courts and sue for damages after being injured at work, and in exchange, employees were to contribute to a no fault benefit process to allow workers who are injured to access benefits that they are  owed, and paid for by workers. But over the years many WSIB benefits have been taken away from the employees.”

Mr. Shain pointed out in the 1980s two popular impact phrases that were used included ‘globalization’ and ‘a level playing field.’ “Those marked fundamental stuff for industry, labour and government. However, with free trade agreements, employers could shift labour to Mexico, produce products cheaper and make bigger profits. So the province saw employees’ well-paying jobs leaving the province. The province was afraid so they made changes.” 

“So then industry said they had to have a level playing field and reduce our costs,” said Mr. Shain. “Governments for the past 25 years or so have been doing this by cutting WSIB premiums which have been reduced several times. And, all of this has been done on the backs of workers.”

“So that original agreement from around World War I is no longer providing a fair compromise for workers,” said Mr. Shain. “My experience in working with injured workers is that they are a victim twice: once, by the accident they have been involved in at work and then by the system that is supposed to be in place to help them. The benefits provided now are unfair. This needs to change.”