Thunder Bay injured workers support group asks local candidates for 'positive change'
Current support system for injured workers "is not working as we had hoped," says group member
Officials from the Thunder Bay and District Injured Worker's Support Group (TB&DIWSG) raised a flag at city hall on Friday to mark Injured Workers Day and National Accessibility Week.
"We had a full house and ... we had a number of candidates come to talk as well about what they would do in terms of reform of workers compensation if they got elected," said Steve Mantis, a board member with the group.
"It's interesting how many of them have a personal connection to work place injury."
From personal experiences to stories about a family member, Mantis said local candidates from the NDP, as well as the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties recognized that the current support system for injured workers "is not working as we had hoped."
"The support needed once people have a serious injury is often times lacking and they all committed to taking steps, if elected, to make positive changes for workers who become disabled on the job," Mantis said.
He said over the last eight years, the government has focused on reducing costs to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and "have been banking the difference."
"The ways they have been doing it is to make-believe people are working when they are not working and no one will hire them and reducing benefits as a result," Mantis explained.
According to a written release on Friday, there are thousands of injured workers in northwestern Ontario who face depression, unemployment and family breakdown after a workplace injury or disease.
"The problems really result when it's a long term, permanent impairment and they are also the most expensive to the compensation board, so more and more barriers are erected to make people get off the benefits as quickly as they can," Mantis said.
Because of those barriers, workers who are injured are usually forced to go back to work before they are ready, he said.
Friday's flag raising event in Thunder Bay was in solidarity with the Queen's Park Rally to commemorate Injured Workers Day and to ask politicians to restore balance to the worker's compensation system.
Mantis said there are things that people in the community can do to support an injured worker.
"People end up often times going through a really rough time and become quite isolated, and if you know a worker who has been injured whose been off work, we encourage people to reach out ... and provide friendships and support."