Letter to the Minister: Addressing the disease cluster at GE Peterborough and the McIntyre powder cluster


The Honorable Kevin Flynn
Minister of Labour
400 University Avenue, 14th Floor
Toronto, ON  M7A 1T7

Dear Minister Flynn:

In March of this year I wrote to you raising concerns over the lack of proper funding for the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) to address the occupational disease cluster at GE Peterborough and the McIntyre powder cluster.

In June, you responded to me and advised me that your ministry was working on,

an approach to expedite work-related exposure assessments for affected GE workers and the WSIB claims process to identify better ways of addressing the needs of workers and their families. In addition, the ministry continues to work with the WSIB and OHCOW to determine how much funding is needed to effectively respond to the GE cluster and to establish a sustainable process to deal with future occupational disease clusters.”

You did not address my concerns regarding the funding for the McIntyre cluster. I hope that this was an oversight and your commitment, quoted above, was also intended for the McIntyre cluster.

An expedited process or presumptive legislation could take months or years to develop and adopt. While this would be helpful for future claims, urgency is required on the current and immediate needs.

You say you are working with OHCOW but it is now approaching the end of August and since my original letter to you, several funding submissions have been made by OHCOW regarding the McIntyre and GE Peterborough clusters. To date, there has been no formal response and no funding, not even interim start-up funds or funds that were indicated to offset the three-day information sessions in Peterborough. OHCOW has not been able to begin the hiring process for additional staff to ensure that both regular work and these clusters can proceed.

This has created a barrier for OHCOW to do the necessary work in a timely manner. As a result, OHCOW’s work on the clusters is progressing very slowly and only at the expense of other workers and families who have also been waiting for services. This delay means that realistically OHCOW will not be in a position of full capacity to work on the clusters and regular case load until sometime in December. This is due to a combination of getting staff in place for the projects and the backfilling of regular staff.

Both clusters involve large numbers of elderly workers suffering from very serious medical conditions, and they continue to die without the resolution of their claims and often without the chance to tell their full story to qualified occupational hygienists and physicians. (While workers entering the palliative phase of their diseases are prioritized for service, this requires both that the worker is aware of impending death and that he or she notifies OHCOW.)

I would like to reiterate my closing comment to you in my letter from last March.

Mr. Minister, I cannot express enough to you how important it is to me and this Federation of Labour that these workers and their families who are suffering are provided the services that they need to ensure they are awarded the benefits and services they are much entitled to from our compensation system. Workers should not be forced to suffer, dying from occupational disease, worrying how their families are going to survive financially after they are gone.

Yours truly,

Chris Buckley
President, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)

905-449-3112 | cbuckley@ofl.ca| @ChrisBuckleyOFL

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