Activists rally at Queen’s Park for Injured Workers Day

June 3, 2011 at 3:48pm

jun03:11-2Locals 175 & 633 staff joined other union brothers and sisters, injured workers and activists at an Injured Workers Day rally at Queen’s Park on June 1. [photos]

Injured Workers Day commemorates the many lives affected by workplace injuries and illnesses every day. Activists used street theatre, music and other presentations to try and bring light to the serious issues facing injured workers in this province. Far too many workers – about 38% – have no protection under the WSIB because their employers do not have to pay into the insurance system.

We’re facing a provincial election this fall… let’s show our government that Injured Workers MUST be made a priority in this province!
The WSIB should never be run as a private insurance company! A Conservative government would mean the privatization of workers’ compensation and a big boost to those businesses in Ontario… and it would be at the expense of the workers. All workplaces must participate in this program if it’s going to succeed and actually provide benefits to injured workers that let them live with dignity and respect and FAIR compensation for their cost of living.
Benefits Rep Sherree Backus (pictured above) spoke to the audience about the important of the upcoming provincial election:
” Recently Mr. Hudak, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, made a comment to the effect that ‘work doesn’t hurt anyone.’ Well Brothers and Sisters I don’t know where this guy has been for the past 25 years or so every June 1st … obviously not here participating in this rally.

He must be unaware of the fatalities caused by workplace accidents in Ontario and the deaths on Christmas Eve that initiated the Expert Panel’s Review, the largest revamp of Ontario’s worker safety system in 30 years and the passing of Bill 160. Has he heard of RSI Day?

Is Hudak aware of the 300,000 plus claims filed a year? Maybe he didn’t get the memo. Maybe he doesn’t care. Shame!

What Hudak probably does understand is the $13 billion unfunded liability of the WSIB, the possible outcome of the current funding review and the impact it may have on employers. Hudak may view this as an opportunity to privatize.

Recently, the Ontario Conservatives released their party’s platform, called Changebook. And how can we forget the costs to date of the changes Bill 99 had on injured workers? Why would we allow another Conservative government in Ontario another chance to finish the job started by the Harris ‘common sense revolution’?

Through our handling of compensation claims for our workers we see first hand the effect of the Funding Review on the WSIB and their current approach to case management and fiscal responsibility. We see claim denials, worker’s benefits limited or reduced, cutbacks… and all this even before the Review Panel has completed the process and submitted their findings.

It is always important to get the concerns of injured workers addressed by the elected members of parliament and to remain in their focus. With the upcoming fall election it is more important than ever to engage candidates in conversation, test their knowledge of workers’ compensation and ask about their intentions and party platform concerning changes or improvements to the system.

Ask them bluntly if privatization is on their agenda. Challenge their position. Ask questions and then ask more. Don’t let the idea that the business community is very strong right now deter our determination to fight for workers’ rights and justice.

We cannot allow all the hardship endured and gains made by workers over the years to go by the way side because of fear jun03:11mongering. We cannot forget.

Become even more active, write letters and educate those around you. Take a stand. Let’s not return to the Mike Harris agenda. Make your vote count and stop the right wing attack on injured workers. Get involved. Vote!”

The day’s presentations included several injured workers who spoke about their experiences as well as messages of solidarity from unions fighting for the rights of their members through the difficult WSIB process. Other speakers included Minister of Labour Charles Sousa, members of parliament, OFL President Sid Ryan and WSIB Chair, Steve Mahoney.