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Injured workers rally for change

The Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group held a rally outside MPP Michael Gravelle’s office to demand changes to WSIB policies.
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THUNDER BAY - With the provincial election only two months away, injured workers are calling for answers from the Ontario government when it comes to policies guiding the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

The Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers Support Group held a rally on Tuesday in front of MPP Michael Gravelle’s constituency office.

“We want the politicians to know that we have three demands that we want them to investigate and tell the workers of Ontario what they are going to do about it,” said Eugene Lefrancois, president of the TBDIWSG. “Why should they have the workers of Ontario vote if they are not going to do anything?”

Lefrancois said the Ontario Network of Injured Workers met last year and determined three key areas that require action leading up to the provincial election.

These include eliminating the practice of determining future lost wages by deeming a worker to be working, even when unemployed; allowing more say from a worker’s treating health care professional and not relying only on company doctors; and reversing the WSIB’s policy on pre-existing conditions, which places blame on a disability to factors outside of the workplace.

“WSIB does not want to listen all the time to treating physicians or medical people,” Lefrancois said. “I just met one injured worker who fell 60 feet in 2015 and got cut off. Uncool. So he has an appeal next month and no one is helping him.”

Members of TBDIWSG met with Gravelle in his office before he addressed the protestors outside his office. Gravelle said he is grateful to the injured workers for making their case again that there needs to be significant changes to the legislation to ensure workers are treated with dignity and fairness.

“I will be returning to Queen’s Park and making the case to the Premier and the Minister of Labour that we need to look at the legislation that is presently in place that has been a hindrance to injured workers being treated as they deserve to be,” Gravelle said. “There are a number of issues related to the WSIB that I’ve been advocating for on behalf of the injured workers and I will be continuing to do that.”

Lefrancois said that he has asked to meet with Premier Kathleen Wynne, who agreed to a meeting during her visit to Thunder Bay last January.

“I asked her the question: will she meet with injured workers and she said yes,” Lefrancois said. “Right now she is passing it off to the Minister of Labour, Minister Flynn. I don’t want to meet with Flynn. I want to meet with Wynne. Not Flynn, Wynne.”

While there has been no official refusal to meet with injured workers from the Premier, Lefrancois said he has not heard anything as of yet, but added MPP Bill Mauro and Gravelle have offered their support.

“I feel that Wynne is being shielded from the truth of how injured workers are being treated,” Lefrancois said.   

Gravelle said he is working to make sure that a meeting happens between the Premier and local injured workers.