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Ontario government must fulfill promises to injured workers, families: United Steelworkers

TORONTO – The Ontario Conservative government’s pledge that injured and ill workers across the province will benefit from leadership changes at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board must be backed up by decisive and meaningful action, the United Steelworkers (USW) union says.

“Promises and pretty words are meaningless if they are not promptly followed by long-overdue, concrete measures needed to help injured workers and their families,” said Myles Sullivan, the USW’s Ontario Director-elect.

Sullivan was referring to a pledge by Labour Minister Monte McNaughton that, in replacing the WSIB’s top two leaders – its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer – the government is signaling a commitment to “do better” for injured workers and their families.

Workers who suffer serious illnesses due to their jobs “should have the confidence that they and their loved ones will be taken care of,” McNaughton further promised.

“For years, workers’ advocates and even government reports have been calling for specific legislative and policy changes to help injured and sick workers, and their families, who deserve support and compensation,” Sullivan said.

“The government and the WSIB have ignored or rejected these recommendations, leaving tens of thousands of workers and their shattered families to suffer as they are denied justice. To make matters worse, these workers and families have had to watch in disbelief as this government recently decided to give away $3 billion in ‘surplus’ WSIB funds to corporations,” he added.

“These funds should be going to compensation and support programs that continue to be denied to workers and families. In light of this massive corporate giveaway, workers can be forgiven for holding their applause for this government, until it enacts fundamental changes to this broken system.”

The USW is urging the government and the WSIB to act on recommendations from the Occupational Disease Reform Alliance (ODRA) and other workers’ advocacy groups, including:

  • Compensating occupational disease claims when workplace patterns exceed community levels
  • Expanding the list of compensable diseases presumed to be work-related
  • Using the proper legal standard, not scientific certainty, in compensation cases
  • Recognition that exposures to multiple substances in workplaces combine to cause disease
  • Ensuring proper levels of funding for the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), as recommended by the provincial government’s own report.
  • Fully transparent reporting of the WSIB’s funding levels and financial practices. Current reporting practices are opaque, including failure to disclose the level of funds being set aside for occupational disease claims.

“We join injured and ill workers and their families across Ontario in genuinely hoping this government will act meaningfully and take the WSIB in a new direction,” Sullivan said. “We will be monitoring this issue closely to hold the government accountable for its promises of doing right by workers.”

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For further information:

Myles Sullivan, USW Ontario Director-elect, 416-243-8792
Sylvia Boyce, USW District 6 Health and Safety Co-ordinator, 905-741-9830, sboyce@usw.ca
Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 647-522-1630, dstpierre@usw.ca

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Communications Director:
Shannon Devine
sdevine@usw.ca
416-544-5946 or
416-894-7118

Communications Department - Québec
Clairandrée Cauchy
ccauchy@metallos.ca
514-774-4001 

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United Steelworkers
234 Eglinton Ave. E., 8th Floor
Toronto, ON M4P 1K7