May 1, 2017
On November 16, 2016, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Chris Buckley wrote a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne pointing out that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA) violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Buckley pointed to a recent complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman by the injured worker community, which among other areas of concern, highlighted the injustice in the application of the Act and subsequent Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) policies.
This complaint called for an investigation into the WSIB’s treatment of workers who suffer mental injuries because of chronic mental stress.
The OFL rightfully noted that there have been three Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal decisions stating that the provision in the WSIA and WSIB policy limiting entitlement to workers with mental stress disabilities are in breach of the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The OFL urged the Premier to intervene and to ensure that the discriminatory provisions under the WSIA were removed. This is an issue that both the injured worker community and organized labour have been advocating be corrected, for quite some time.
The OFL was pleased to see that Schedule 33 of Bill 127: Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act, (Budget Measures), 2017 addressed this issue. Namely, Schedule 33 amends WSIA “a worker is entitled to benefits under the insurance plan for chronic or traumatic mental stress arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.”
It is, however, important to note that not all workers, who suffer from chronic or traumatic mental stress, will qualify for benefits. Specifically, “a worker is not entitled to benefits for mental stress caused by decisions or actions of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment, including a decision to change the work to be performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker or to terminate the employment.” The OFL calls on the government to remove this exemption and ensure that all Ontario workers suffering from mental stress, as a result of their workplace, are entitled to benefits. The benefit entitlement must also be retroactive. It is imperative that workers in Ontario with chronic or traumatic mental stress do not fall further behind.
To read the proposed changes as outlined in Schedule 33 of Bill 127, Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017, please click here.
- Health & Safety