Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Many injured workers are unhappy, and not only because they’re hurt. They’ve worked hard and unfortunately been injured on the job. Yet, as many as one in four cannot get any satisfaction from the very system that is supposed to help them.
The Workers Safety and Insurance Board was designed to aid people injured on the job. Given long-standing and growing complaints about the system, it seems clear that it is failing many who need it.
Like those who rallied for changes in Thunder Bay and across the province on Monday, we are concerned that the provincial government is not taking this issue seriously.
As injured and disabled workers rallied outside Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle’s constituency office, Greg Snider said the percentage of denied claims is increasing and total WSIB payments are down.
Snider is president of the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group which is advocating for changes.
WSIB has cut benefits and more than 20 per cent of people who apply aren’t qualifying, Snider said.
“At the same time the number of fatalities is increasing, so we know the workplace is not getting safer. It is clearly an attempt to save money on WSIB’s part,” Snider said.
He noted that denied claims can be extremely frustrating for injured workers who are left with no sense of control over their future something that adds to their stress.
The support group charges that the number of denied claims has increased from nine per cent in 2010 to about 24 per cent by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, the total annual benefits paid by the WSIB has dropped 28 per cent from 2009 to 2013.
That may look good on the government balance sheet but it strikes one as excessively stingy.
In addition to the increased denials, injured and disabled workers are protesting cuts to long-term benefits, changes to the recognition of a permanent impairment, time limits placed on injured workers and pre-conditions used to deny benefits.
The provincial government has to fix its injured workers support system that is clearly damaged.
As with almost any public benefits program there can be abuse. But the size of the reductions in service suggest this exercise is abusive in its own right.
It’s time for the government to order a realistic assessment of the program, with input from injured workers, employers and experienced WSIB personnel, in order to implement changes that benefit all legitimate WSIB applicants. Injured and disabled workers deserve a fair shake, not the heavy hand of bureaucracy