SUBMITTED BY BOB WOOD
These days there is much talk about “fake news.”
We’re more concerned about stories that are factually accurate but miss the point.
One example is the announcement of a 29.8 reduction of premiums for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) employers.
In September, with great fanfare, the Ontario government put this “good news” story forward. The WSIB had eliminated its unfunded liability – the shortfall between the money they say is needed to be in the WSIB’s Insurance Fund to pay benefits owing workers and the money that is there. The Unfunded Liability crisis had been resolved, we were told.
The story is accurate, as far as it goes.
But has a crisis really been averted?
As Aidan MacDonald of the Injured Workers’ Clinic says, it is a “manufactured crisis.”
That is because the need to have no Unfunded Liability is only a requirement for private insurers. WSIB, an arm’s length agency of the provincial government, can count on a guaranteed steady revenue source in government-mandated employer premiums.
There is history to this manufactured crisis.
In 1997, injured workers’ wage loss benefits were cut by 5 percent (from 90 percent of net average earnings to 85 percent.) In addition, the WSIB’s contribution to retirement pensions of permanently disabled workers’ was cut in half. As well, cost-of-living increases for permanently and partially disabled workers were set below the rate of inflation.
Let’s remember that over 100 years ago there was an agreement. Employers said they’d fund the compensation system and share the liability for injured workers. In return, injured workers would receive benefits while they recovered and wouldn’t sue their employers.
The real story, then, is how this system has deteriorated at the expense of injured workers. This can best be summed up by looking at the issue of deeming.
When a program to help an injured worker get back into the workforce with training skills and placements is completed, the worker is “deemed.” They are now, theoretically, able to work in a new job field with their compensation reduced by the amount people in that field earn.
However, according to Injured Workers Online:
“The problem is that about 40% of those injured workers …. cannot get the job they are trained for, but their WSIB benefits are still cut as if they are working.”
Experts, like Dr. Emile Tompa, confirm the extent of the problem.
Tompa is a senior scientist at the Institute for Work & Health. He has shown that 41% of workers with a permanent injury (rated at 10-20% impairment) recover less than 25% of their earnings as compared to uninjured peers.
Deeming is just one problem with our workers compensation system. Find out more about how a system designed to help is driving injured workers into poverty at https://injuredworkersonline.org/
Bob Wood is a Community Worker at Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.