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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Injured workers take case to MPP; Day of protest marked across Ontario

"Injured workers are being left out in the cold, . . ."


- Injured workers are still "being left out in the cold" as they struggle for fair compensation, says a local spokesman for the North Bay Injured Workers Group.

For the past 23 years, no provincial government of any stripe has been particularly responsive to their plight, said Keith Allen, vice-president of the local workers' association.

Allen, who suffered a lower back injury while working for the City of North Bay, is a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board worker for Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 122.

Friday marked the 23rd annual Injured Workers Day.

Protests were held around the province, including North Bay, where nearly 20 demonstrators converged outside Nipissing MPP Monique Smith's Main Street office to discuss the lack of benefits for injured workers.

"Injured workers are being left out in the cold and they're getting less money every year to overcome their injuries," Allen said, noting injured worker benefits have increased a total of 2.9 per cent in the last 10 years while inflation has risen 25.4 per cent in the same time span.

"And our struggle isn't only for injured workers, it's for all workers," he said. "A worker could be less than one second, one minute, one hour or one day away from an injury."

But Smith said the group's attack on the current provincial government isn't fair.

She said injured worker compensation benefits will increase 7.5 per cent over the next 18 months.

"We've certainly been working with the injured workers group and we have been making some improvements," Smith said. "There's still more work to be done, there's no doubt about it. It's been a long time coming."

Smith said previous governments are to blame for the current situation, with the last benefit increase taking place 12 years ago. The Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, however, is not satisfied with the 7.5 per cent increase. According to a report to the standing committee on finance and economic affairs, the group wants full cost of living increases restored. It also wants the increases be paid retroactively to injured workers for the past 12 years.

Allen said the local group plans to remain active in the public eye until the provincial election Oct. 10.

According to the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, there are currently 200,000 permanently injured workers in Ontario and 65 per cent of them are unemployed. Only 25,000 of them receive any long-term benefits.

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