On September 17, 2017 the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups- ONIWG launched the provincial campaign to raise awareness of the plight of injured workers across Ontario.
In a press release the President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONWIG), Willy Noiles was quoted as saying that “For too long, the WSIB has gotten away with violating our rights through cutbacks and austerity, with no accountability.”
Mr. Noiles further stated that injured workers "refuse to accept this. We are taking a stand across Ontario to reclaim our rights and work with our allies to call for a strong, public system that truly supports and provides compassion for injured workers while getting back on their feet and on with their lives.”
The WSIB is meant to be responsible for the recovery and wage compensation of injured workers in Ontario, but it is failing in its responsibility. From 2009 to 2015, the WSIB cut total benefits to injured workers by nearly $1.16 billion — a 33% reduction over the six-year period. As a result, some 46% of injured workers with a permanent disability are living at or near the poverty line.
The Workers’ Comp is a Right campaign has three clear demands about some of the WSIB’s primary methods of cutting entitlements and
sending injured workers into poverty:
• No cuts based on phantom jobs;
• Listen to injured workers’ treating healthcare professionals;
• Stop cutting benefits based on “pre-existing conditions”
"Deeming" (also called "determining") refers to a practice used by the WSIB in which they pretend an injured worker has a job that they do not actually have. The Board then uses the "phantom job" as an excuse to cut benefit payments.
For example, a construction worker who permanently injured while making $20 per hour may receive full wage loss benefits from the WSIB for a while. After a time, the WSIB may agree that the worker cannot return to construction, but may decide they could be a minimum wage cashier, and will reduce benefits by $11.40 per hour - even if the worker is not medically able to do the work, or unable or find a job.
OUR DOCTORS KNOW US BEST In 2016 and 2017, a series of reports were released by injured worker groups, labour organizations, and legal clinics that said what injured workers and advocates have long known: There are serious problems with the way that the WSIB considers medical evidence.* These reports highlighted a range of issues, including failing to heed medical advice regarding readiness to return to work, insufficient treatment, blaming ‘pre-existing conditions’ for injuries clearly caused at work, questionable use of Board funded specialty clinics, using "expected recovery times" to declare a worker healed, purchasing reports from private medical consultants who never meet the worker (also called "paper doctors"), and even simply ignoring the available medical evidence all together.
PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS Around 2012, after hiring a notorious American insurance doctor to give them policy suggestions, the WSIB began a practice of reducing or eliminating injured workers’ benefits by aggressively penalizing people who they felt had “pre-existing conditions.” This has taken many forms, including reducing the length of time workers receive wage loss and healthcare benefits, cutting the Non-Economic Loss (NEL) awards given for permanent injuries, and more. This differs from the Board’s pre 2012 practice of limiting benefits only for “pre-existing impairments.”
What’s the difference? A pre-existing impairment is a condition that has symptoms, and that had previously limited a worker’s ability to do their job. What the WSIB now calls pre-existing conditions includes things that may have never affected the worker before.
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