WSIB is a nightmare - 3/4 of disabled workers in
"Approximately three quarters of injured workers are
chronically unemployed and living under the poverty line . . . while 42 per
cent said their income is from welfare . . . "WSIB is a nightmare . . . The
system is totally, totally broken" "
Survey finds poverty among injured
workers SARAH ELIZABETH BROWN
Approximately three quarters of
injured workers are chronically unemployed and living under the poverty line, a
local survey found.
Aided by a Lakehead University master‘s
student, the city‘s injured workers support group surveyed 40 injured
workers last year to determine the extent of poverty among them.
of the participants came from a Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers‘
Support Group event while the other half came from people using the services of
Street Reach Ministry, Shelter House or the John Howard Society.
survey found 71 per cent of respondents have annual incomes below Statistics
Canada‘s low income cut-off line for Thunder Bay, of $17,895, a figure
which is used as a poverty line.
A further 78 per cent reported being
unemployed, and though nearly all were looking for work, half said they thought
their chances of finding work were unrealistic, said researcher and
former Lakehead student Karli Brothchie.
She acknowledged the survey
was a small one, but said the results at this level highlight the need for more
research into the long-term impacts of workplace injuries.
is needed to determine just how many people are facing long-term or permanent
unemployment due to being hurt on the job, Brothchie said. Current support
group president Janet Paterson estimated 17,500 families in the region are
suffering the effects of a long-term disability.
wages – one worker went from $60,000 to $10,000 of annual income –
impacts included strained marriages and home life, increased drug use and even
thoughts of suicide for 15 per cent.
Eighty per cent reported feelings
of isolation, while about 63 per cent said they were depressed.
Mantis, a support group past president, said that may be because being
productive and a contributing member of a community is so tied up with a
person‘s self esteem.
You can cope with the (physical)
pain . . . but you cannot cope with the depression, said one woman at
Wednesday‘s presentation of the survey results at the Labour Centre.
Sometimes I don‘t even get out of the house because of the
depression, the woman said.
She was unable to work after being injured
several times in her job at a city-run home for the aged. She said her case
involved proving she really had been hurt at work and took seven years to
Mantis wants to see the workers compensation system changed,
calling the current format too adversarial and suspicious of workers.
But two injured workers in the small audience said the system is beyond
Ted Bobrowski was 30 years old when he hurt his back the first
time working construction.
Now 48 and recounting the frustrating
system that embroils hurt workers, he said he was once cut off from support
because he missed one doctor‘s appointment.
The system is
totally, totally broken, he said. It‘s beyond repair.
It took the best years of my life and threw them in the trash. . . .
WSIB is a nightmare and I feel sorry for anyone who hurts themselves. Look
after yourself because they‘re not there for you, he said.
Bobrowski is not alone – Mantis and Brothchie said surveyed workers
called the compensation system invasive and demeaning.
only 18 per cent of those surveyed were receiving workers‘ compensation
money, while 42 per cent said their income is from welfare, either Ontario
Works or Ontario Disability Support Payments.
We have a system
in place to help injured workers specifically and it‘s obviously failing
them if we‘ve got a large, large percentage on welfare, Brothchie
Welfare isn‘t meant to be a permanent support for people
who‘ve been hurt at work, she said.
Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP
Bill Mauro said he doesn‘t have an explanation for why so many injured
workers would be on social assistance rather than workers compensation. His
office staff were unable to get an answer from the appropriate ministries in
We‘re trying to move the yardsticks
forward, Mauro said, pointing to the government‘s poverty reduction
efforts and three 2.5-per-cent increases to workers‘ compensation over 18
As a government we‘re recognizing this group of
people have not been treated equitably for a long period of time, so this is a
move to try and address some of that, said Mauro.
Of the 40
people surveyed, only 64 per cent reported their injuries to the Workplace
Safety and Insurance Board. However, fewer than half of Ontario workers are
covered by workers compensation, and the survey did not ask if the respondents