Toronto – February 12, 2018 – UFCW Canada, the country’s leading advocate for agriculture workers, welcomes recently announced changes by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) regarding the way the Board provides health care services to migrant farm workers. “It is great to see that our years of advocacy with our community partners has resulted in these much-needed changes,” says Paul Meinema, the National President of UFCW Canada.
The following changes are now in effect for all workers enrolled in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. In Ontario, the WSIB is required to:
Inform migrant workers that the Board can arrange taxis for them – free of charge – to attend health care appointments;
Help workers find physiotherapy and other health care services in Ontario if they do not know where or how to access these services;
Tell employers that they expect workers to be able to speak with their doctors privately and that the WSIB can arrange interpretation if the worker requests it;
Directly contact a worker a minimum of once per month to discuss ongoing return-to-work and recovery issues, and whether the worker needs assistance in accessing health care;
Send a letter to the worker outlining the availability of taxis and informing the employee of any services that the WSIB can provide in finding and accessing health care; and
If there is doubt regarding the worker’s ability to access health care in their home country, consider whether it is necessary for the worker to remain in Ontario for health care treatment at the time of repatriation, and pay for their accommodations in Ontario if that is the case.
As well, in a migrant worker’s home country, the WSIB will:
Pay upfront transportation costs – with the default being mileage – for migrant farm workers to attend health care appointments in their home country. The Board will also provide upfront payment based on an approved number of treatments;
Contact health care providers to arrange direct billing and, if needed, help workers find providers who are willing to bill the WSIB directly. The WSIB can pay these health care providers through wire transfers to mitigate the delay of sending international cheques;
Contact the worker directly a minimum of once per month to discuss ongoing return-to-work and recovery issues, and whether the worker needs assistance in accessing health care; and
Send a letter to the worker when they are repatriated, outlining the types of treatments the WSIB can approve (including mental health treatment); clarifying that the Board can help find and pay directly for treatments; and informing the worker that the WSIB can pay their transportation expenses up front.
“These changes are long overdue,” says the UFCW Canada leader. “For decades, migrant farm workers have struggled to access health care while labouring in Ontario and when they return home,” Meinema adds. “The WSIB announcement is positive news, but we must remain vigilant to ensure that the WSIB follows through and provides workers with better access to the health care services they need and deserve.”
If you have questions regarding specific details of the changes, please contact one of UFCW Canada’s Agriculture Workers support centres, which will be offering workshops to agriculture workers about these changes and new protections in the coming season.