Retired GE plant workers skeptical about review of occupational illness claims
The Ministry of Labour will appoint Dr. Paul Demers and the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario to conduct a review of how work-related cancers are evaluated, it was announced Friday.
The UNIFOR-GE Advisory Committee represents hundreds of workers and widows of workers who are claiming compensation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board after they developed cancer while working at the General Electric plant in Peterborough. Sue James says the group is concerned about the objectivity of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre. Sitting on the Centre’s steering committee is Dr. Roland Hossain, who, James says, wrote a controversial report on occupational health risks at GE.
“He went in and did basically a mortality study on the effects of cancer within the workplace,” James said, “and his numbers showed that there was no significant cancer risk in the plant and today that is still what WSIB is using to deny claims.”
The group sees the new review as a band-aid solution to a systemic problem with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Bob DeMatteo wrote a report outlining the various carcinogenic contaminants to which workers were exposed at the GE plant.
“Minister Flynn told us the worker’s compensation system is broken, and he would have to find another way to deal with these claims,” DeMatteo said. “Nothing’s materialized in the three years since I’ve been involved in this, okay? And now there’s a last ditch attempt attempt to divert our attention with a study being performed. My question is how long is this going to take?”
On making the announcement about the review, Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal said the process would start immediately.