The United Steelworkers and the creator of the McIntyre Powder Project are putting pressure on Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to fully rescind a policy that used to deny claims based on aluminum exposure.
It was thought the WSIB had already completely repealed its policy. But in an email to a union member, a WSIB spokesperson clarified the change is on a go-forward basis.
"I think that the WSIB has missed a massive opportunity to reverse course and to differentiate themselves from their past predecessors," said Janice Martell, founder of the McIntyre Powder Project.
"I'm frustrated. I am insulted for my miners and what they've gone through, and I personally think that the WSIB is hurdling itself towards a class action lawsuit, and they'll be on the wrong end of that class action lawsuit."
Martell is documenting evidence to prove a connection between McIntyre Powder exposure and illness. She quit her day job to work full time on a database after learning her late father, Jim Hobbs, had to take in the dust when he worked as a miner in Elliot Lake, Ont., in the 1970s.
'Human guinea pigs'
WSIB is commissioning a new study to examine the link between McIntyre Powder exposure and neurological disease, but the United Steelworkers are calling this another tactic to avoid compensation, according to a news release.
"These workers were human guinea pigs," wrote Marty Warren, director of United Steelworkers. "We have conducted intake clinics, where we interviewed former miners, survivors and caregivers. Everyone came with a story about how breathing in the dust — so thick you couldn't see — in closed rooms affected breathing, overall health and life expectancy."
"Are the bureaucrats just waiting for all the victims to pass away? This is no way to run a system that is supposed to support workers who are injured or made sick by their work," Warren continued in the release.
The irony, said Warren, is that the WSIB announced it was repealing a policy that has been used to deny claims based on aluminum exposure. However, the repeal is said to be in effect on a "go-forward" basis and will not apply to workers who are currently waiting for a decision or an appeal on the denial of their entitlement.
In a statement, WSIB told CBC News it must make decisions based on scientific evidence and is hopeful its new study will provide clear answers.