TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 26, 2012) - As a result of an employer-led legal campaign, victims of occupational disease and their survivors have been cut off of "loss of earnings" benefit payments by the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB). OFL President Sid Ryan sent an urgent letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty calling for immediate action to protect the wage replacement benefits for occupational disease victims and their families after retirement. This employer-led campaign even goes as far as attacking the benefits of surviving spouses of deceased occupational disease victims.
"The purpose of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act is to provide compensation for workers who are exposed to toxins and chemicals in the workplace and develop life threatening occupational diseases, such as cancer. To cut financial support to victims and their families because the worker retired before they got sick or died is callous beyond imagination," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "In 1914, workers made a historic compromise to give up their right to sue employers for workplace injuries and disease, in exchange for compensation against loss of earnings as a result of employer negligence. The fact that employers and lawyers today are lobbying to cut off victims of support and add to their suffering is a disgusting betrayal of that agreement."
In 2009, the WSIB stopped paying loss of earnings benefits once a worker left the workforce - be it through retirement or death. The decision came as the result of a legal campaign, led by law firm Hicks Morley, for a narrower interpretation of the Act based on the argument that when a worker is no longer employed, there are no earnings to lose. However, the WSIB had previously paid loss of earnings benefits even when disease diagnosis or treatment took place after retirement, based on recognition of the latency period between the workplace exposures and the development of a disease. The OFL is calling on the Premier to amend relevant sections of the Act to uphold the right of workers who are diagnosed with an occupational disease post-retirement to receive benefits, as if they were currently employed. The Federation is also calling on the Premier to ensure that benefits continue to be paid to surviving spouses even when a worker dies from their occupational illness after retirement.
"The Premier has the opportunity to fix the Act now to ensure that victims of occupational disease and their survivors are not abandoned in their time of need. These victims and their families have already suffered immeasurable loss due to unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and they now will be re-victimized if government refuses to right this wrong," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. "Many surviving family members are widows who rely on their WSIB benefits for their quality of life. The husbands of these women lost their lives to build the economy of our country. We have a duty to honour and compensate for that sacrifice."
Click on this link to download the OFL's full letter to the Premier.
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario.