The Cover Me WSIB campaign was established to ensure all injured workers are treated fairly and covered universally under the compensation system managed by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
The WSIB administers no fault workplace insurance for approximately 250,000 employers, and covers more than four million workers in this province, BUT that is only 72% of business in Ontario. That is the lowest rate of mandatory coverage in the country and leaves 1.6 Million workers in Ontario without WSIB coverage in the event of an injury or illness.
A century ago, Ontario’s workers and employers made a historic compromise to ensure a compensatory system that would work for everyone – injured workers gave up their right to sue employers on the condition that employers would fund a compensation system managed by the government.
In keeping with this compromise, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act should be revised to expand coverage to all employers.
Ontario led the world when it created the first comprehensive “no fault” workers’ compensation system. Now, Ontario covers fewer workplaces than any other province. There are still large groups of workers without WSIB coverage. Employees who work in group homes, banking and insurance, health care and social assistance as well as professional, scientific and technical services are not currently covered. Almost 30% of Ontario’s employers do not provide WSIB coverage.
The truth is, we can’t afford a plan that doesn’t provide universal comprehensive coverage to all injured workers. The WSIB is financed through employer contributions, not by taxpayers. Insured workers who can’t get the support they need through the WSIB have to rely on publicly-funded health care, social assistance and disability programs. Taxpayers end up footing the bill for workplace injuries, and workers don’t receive the wage replacement, rehabilitation, new occupational training or other supports they need to lead productive lives.
Businesses currently covered under the WSIB pay more because other employers aren’t paying their share. Employers covered by the WSIB pay $240 million for province-wide health and safety programs that benefit all employers. Universal comprehensive coverage would level the playing field and spread the “risk” of compensation across more employers, reducing their individual contributions.
More workers covered by the WSIB = less pressure on the public purse.
The support and compensation provided by the WSIB is far better than what an injured worker receives through disability programs like OHIP, employment insurance or disability support. The responsibility lies with the employer as a cost of doing good business.
However, sometimes attempts to control costs at the WSIB have negative impacts on injured workers. Injured workers who are fully compensated for a permanent disability see their compensation level adjusted each year to keep pace with changes in the cost of living. Those who receive partial compensation for a permanent disability don’t and have less and less to live on every year. The system should be fair to all workers with permanent disabilities. Both full and partial compensation for permanent disabilities should match the real cost of living.
The WSIB is attempting to improve its financial situation. It had an unfunded liability of $12 to $14 billion, largely triggered by the recession in 2007.
This has now been reduced by more than half to $7.5 billion. However, the truth is that the WSIB has been underfunded for years. Between 1996 and 2003, the provincial government lowered the average assessment rate (the amount an employer pays per $100 of wages) from $3.00 to $2.13, starving the system. The government has begun to restore rates, which have risen to $2.43 today, but initial reductions to rates have saved employers a collective $10 billion. The province can make the compensation system more financially sound by providing universal coverage so that more employers share the cost. Employer rebates without actual proof that a workplace is safer should end, and employer contributions need to be brought back, over time, to a sustainable level.
The provincial government needs to revise the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to include all employers automatically. Also, amendments to the act need to be made to ensure that cost-saving programs don’t lead to workplace injuries being hidden and workers being pressured back to work before they have properly recovered.