Critic claims tribunal could thwart justice
Friday March 30, 2001
By Neil Bowen of The Observer
Creation of a mega tribunal to replace groups like the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal will push people further away from justice, according to an experienced tribunal participant.
“It will be more complicated. It could be impossible to reach them. There is no way it will be simpler,” said Tony Barbato, director of Injured Workers In Need in Sarnia.
Labour Minister Chris Stockwell said the proposal, which would see 35 to 50 adjudicators appointed to replace about 150 adjudicators now leading the separate bodies, is not a bid to appoint Conservative supporters to carry out an anti-labour or anti-worker agenda.
The new appointments would help reduce backlogs in the various commissions by working full time, rather than part-time and in the evening – as current adjudicators do, he said.
Earlier this month the provincial government introduced a “white paper” out-lining the so called “Unified Workplace Tribunal” – a “mega tribunal” which would replace up to 10 current tribunals and boards of appeal.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal, the Board of Inquiry under the Human Rights Code, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal, the Education Relations Commission, and the College Relations Commission are all on the block for amalgamation.
Some tribunals now have cases that have been backed up for years, Stockwell said.
Barbato agrees there are backlogs but this shows the WSIB needs a better claims-handling system rather than the necessity for a mega tribunal.
“If it doesn’t work, they (claims) will pile up at the tribunal.” he said
As an example of ongoing difficulty with some claims is represented by 42 year old carpenter Dan Gray. He suffered a head injury in 1995 when a sheet of plywood fell on him.
His claim was approved and he receives a monthly payment but in recent months his case has been reviewed. He was directed to take training so he can start working again.
Barbato said WSIB authorities have judged Gray able to work five hours a day in retail sales. But he said the original judgment supported by doctors that Gray was unable to work should prevail.
“The fight never ends” said Gray who is plagued by headaches and balance problems.
He is trying to complete the training course but he is struggling due to his inability to concentrate.
“Let me try to get a job with what I have to offer. Stop the pressure I am underneath all the time…It seems like after every Christmas they go after me .” he said.
Barbato has started proceedings to return Gray’s status as unable to work. Gray keeps trying to follow the WSIB direction but his headaches have gotten worse since he started the training in January.
He appears exasperated as he talks about it. He is fearful he will lose his income if he doesn’t try but is uncertain he can meet the demands.
“They don’t listen to anybody,” he said