WSIB premium cuts hurt injured workers: OPSEU

This amounts to taking money from some of the most vulnerable people in Ontario and handing it to employers." —Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (20 Sept. 2016) — A decision by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to reduce employer premiums is an insult to injured workers who have already suffered through years of austerity, said the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).

Cuts will save employers $250M annually

“These premium cuts re-victimize the many injured workers who have suffered so that the WSIB could improve its financial position. This amounts to taking money from some of the most vulnerable people in Ontario and handing it to employers,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

At its annual general meeting on September 14, the WSIB announced that employer premiums would be cut by an average of 5 per cent in 2017. In some categories, the decrease will amount to 14 per cent. The WSIB projects the premium reductions will save Ontario employers about $250 million annually.

Money better used toward injured workers

That’s money that would be better spent on enhancements to benefits paid to injured workers, said David Newberry, a front-line worker who advocates on their behalf.

“This is an unfortunate repeat of a pattern we’ve seen in this province for the past 20 years,” said Newberry, a community legal worker at the Injured Workers’ Consultants Community Legal Clinic in Toronto, and a member of OPSEU Local 525.

Injured workers suffer when premiums are cut

“The pattern is this: declare a financial crisis in the WSIB’s unfunded liability costs, reduce benefits to workers, and return the savings to employers in the form of rate cuts. The WSIB’s own numbers show that 46 per cent of their recent savings have resulted directly from allowing fewer claims for less time. It’s injured workers who are underwriting the $250 million in savings to employers.”

Newberry noted that more and more injured workers are turning to food banks to help feed themselves and their families. His clinic is also witnessing an increase in the numbers of injured workers returning to the job prematurely because they aren’t able to get by on their benefit payments alone.

NUPGE 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE