Labour Leader Joins Injured Workers for Sit In

Ryan occupies Hudak’s office. Peter Page, president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers addresses those gathered for the protest at Tim Hudak’s offices in Beamsville.

The head of the Ontario Federation of Labour, joined injured workers from across the province, for a sit-in Wednesday at Ontario PC leader and Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak’s Beamsville office.

Sid Ryan, president of the OFL, led the sit-in, one of several held across the province at offices of members of provincial parliament, requesting help
for injured workers. The peaceful protests, which also took place at Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office, were organized to raise the profile of injured workers across the province.

“There are roughly 240,000 injured workers living below the poverty line as a result of policy changes that were made by workers compensation dating back to the Mike Harris years,” said Ryan from Hudak’s office in Beamsville. “Tim Hudak has made it clear that his WSIB reforms will take more money out of the pockets of injured workers to serve the interests of employers.”

A main focus of the protests was the process of “deeming,” the practice used by the workers compensation board to decide the compensation that it will
pay for a loss of earnings as a result of workplace injury or illness. Compensation is based on the difference between pre-injury earnings and the earnings that injured workers are able to earn in suitable and available employment after injury. However, the President of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Peter Page says that many of these jobs that injured workers are deemed suitable for are merely “phantom” jobs, as workers cannot find employment while injured.

“Some people were working $13 an hour jobs to begin with and may be deemed to have no wage loss at all because they can go find a minimum wage job,” Page said. “A lot of these workers are in fact unable to get a job because of serious injury or disability.”

Page was injured on the job, and watched his income reduce to $18,000. He says that he had to take out his investments and cash his RRSP’s just to feed his family, and that his daughter was unable to continue attending university due to his lack of income.

“These are just some of the issues that injured workers have to go through,” Page said. “My story is the story of 30,000 to 40,000 injured workers across
the province.”

Injured workers and their families alike were on hand to share their stories with whomever would listen. Kim Hoover’s husband fell 44 feet while working
as a window washer and now has a plastic heel and a metal ankle to show for it. A year after his injury he returned to work, but now, years later, he has
re-injured himself and needs to have his heel and ankle replaced.

“WSIB has deemed him employable, even though he can’t walk,” Hoover said. “We went on what’s called loss of income, where he’s working a phantom job at minimum wage, so he gets $418 a month from WSIB.”

Many injured workers feel the WSIB is cheating them out of the compensation they deserve. Reductions happen regardless of whether or not a worker is able to find work after being injured, leaving many workers with little to no compensation benefits.

“The Harris government of 1999 put forward many draconian policies regarding the workers compensation system,” Page said. “Mr. Hudak is planning on giving employers a break on worker’s compensation premiums which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars — where is that money going to come from? Traditionally when there is a change in workers compensation, its on the back on injured workers.”

Hudak wasn’t on hand to address the concerns, but his office released a statement in response.

“We share their concerns that life has become unaffordable under Dalton McGuinty, as families and others can agree, that with endless tax grabs and skyrocketing hydro bills families can no longer make ends meet. That’s why Tim Hudak and the PC Party are offering families relief and change,” the statement read.

Reproduced from–ryan-occupies-hudak-s-office