(Canadian OH&S News) — Two permanently disabled men in Ontario have recently undergone a public campaign about unfair treatment of injured employees by the workers’ compensation system – via an eight-day bicycle marathon from Ottawa to Toronto.
Hamilton-based Peter Page and Ottawa resident Richard Hudon biked more than 600 kilometres from May 24 to June 1, to raise awareness of the plight of Ontario injured workers who cannot get the compensation they need. With the support of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG), the pair began their journey at Ottawa’s Day of Mourning Monument, before making stops in Cornwall, Brockville, Belleville, Kingston, Cobourg and Oshawa. Along the way, they collected signatures from supporters in a book called The Big Book of Injured Workers.
The tour finished at Toronto’s Queen’s Park, where Page and Hudon joined the annual Injured Workers’ Day (IWD) rally on June 1.
“Richard and I are activists who want to help other injured workers not have to go through what I went through,” said Page, who spoke to COHSN while on a break en route to Belleville. Page, a former employee of Magna International Inc., claims that he developed a repetitive strain injury while on the job.
Hudon lost a leg in a workplace saw accident at the age of 17. He is now in his early 70s.
Page accused the WSIB of addressing its own costs by denying benefits to injured workers and through changing policies that made it harder for workers to get access to appeal tribunals. “All of these things are negatively affecting injured workers’ benefits,” he said.
In addition, he and Hudon expressed concern that the WSIB was on its way to becoming a more privatized system rather than a government-run institution. “You just have to look across the border, at what’s happening to the compensation system there, to understand that it’s heading north.”
While the WSIB did not comment directly on Page’s and Hudon’s campaign, it did issue a news release for IWD, detailing its record on Ontario injured workers.
“Improvements in customer service and technology have resulted in 93 per cent of claims being approved within two weeks – many within 24 hours,” the WSIB claimed in the release. “As a result of improvements across the system, in the past five years, more than 200,000 workers fully recovered from their injuries and returned to work with no loss in wages.”
The WSIB also touted its commitment to healthcare. “Injured and ill workers are getting faster and improved access to more specialized medical care across Ontario,” it said. “We have doubled the availability of specialty clinics for surgery and other specialized procedures.”
Page said that he and Hudon became activists because trying to work through the system with employers and stakeholders was ineffective. “It seems the employer’s getting all the attention,” he said.
“If you can’t get your claim approved, then that’s a success for the WSIB. They don’t care what happens to you after that.”