Occupational disease is an unfortunate reality that affects far too many workers and often times results in death. The members of United Steelworkers Union Local 2251 witnessed their Union brothers and sisters dying from various cancers and illnesses. Local 2251’s Executive Officers had good reason to believe that their members were affected by occupational diseases, and with the help of our Health & Safety Committee obtained confirmation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). The total number of fatal occupational disease claims accepted by WSIB for the period of 2001 to 2005 was 24; an update on the number of fatalities from 2001 to 2007 was 40.
Plans to hold an Occupational Disease Intake Clinic were in place and formalised in November of 2007. A two day clinic was held May 7th & 8th, 2008 at Algoma University’s George Leach Centre with help from numerous organizations, unions, volunteers from the community, etc. At our May clinic 462 workers, retirees and/or surviving family members were surveyed; and an additional 193 attended one of our 5 monthly mini-clinics which included the September clinic in Wawa. We are continuing with individual intakes on an appointment basis.
The information gathered is used to initiate claims with WSIB and is also entered in our confidential database. Our database shows that as of November 5, 2014, 267 claims have been allowed, 615 were denied (the majority of which are being appealed), approximately 100 have decisions pending, and there are an additional 125 to file. It is our goal to have these claims submitted to WSIB within the next few months. Check our Reports and Communications page for updates.
Local 2251 will also use the information in our database to support our efforts for improvements in safety for our members. We will also be lobbying for improvements in WSIB system, including legislation to recognize the perils of the steel industry.
Local 2251 is extending an invitation to participate in a job shadow/internship to activists interested in learning from our experience. We will provide hands on experience, share our knowledge and process for occupational disease claims. This includes data management, intake process, filing a claim, reconsideration request and/or written appeal, possibly observing an appeal hearing (schedule permitting), organizing an intake clinic, etc. Expenses, lost time, travel, accommodations and other costs are the responsibility of the individual and/or their local. Contact USW Local 2251 for further details and availability since this will be on an individual basis.