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Labour Market Reentry – The Ultimate Captive Student

When workers are hurt on the job, it may only be the start of their problems. Just wait until the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board sends them back to school.


 

I haven’t talked much about what I’m doing this summer, but I’m working at a student legal clinic where we represent injured workers through their dealings with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). It’s a good job, and I could write for pages about it, but it would be more than a little off topic for this site. What is on topic, however, is an aspect of what the WSIB does called “Labour Market Reentry” or just LMR.

In a nutshell, when a worker is hurt on the job the ideal outcome is to support the worker through rehabilitation and return to the same job. But sometimes that isn’t possible. Imagine a construction worker who has lost the full use of one arm, or a truck driver who is no longer qualified to drive because of some impairment. Then the WSIB kicks up their LMR program, designed to get the worker back on the market in some other job.

It all sounds very good, but really it comes down to some very brutal math. A worker who has been hurt is entitled to support from the WSIB. The WSIB doesn’t want to pay that support all the way to age 65 and retirement, so if it’s cheaper to put the worker back to school that’s what happens. It’s not altruistic. It’s the barest kind of pragmatism.

As a result of LMR, I end up working with a lot of clients who are going back to school. Women and men in their 30’s and 40’s and 50’s who have been injured on the job and now are retraining to do some other job. And more and more I see their experiences as simply another reflection of various problems that are at work in our education system.

To begin with, these students made no considered decision to return to school. When a worker is injured and can’t return to pre-accident employment that worker’s benefits depend on cooperation with the LMR process. So in order to avoid losing all income and ending up on welfare (a real danger – I’m not exaggerating) the worker may literally be forced back into school.

The worker does have some input into suitable fields of employment but not the final say. And there are times, especially where the worker was making a good pre-accident income that may be difficult to fully replace, where the WSIB does some pretty stupid things – like imagining that a career truck-driver in his 40’s can be successfully retrained as a laboratory technician, despite the fact that he never even passed high school science.

Here’s an issue that I’ve been on about for years. Unwilling students are unsuccessful students. Of course it’s nice that injured workers have the opportunity to retrain and some of them embrace it, but there’s nothing magical about getting hurt on the job that transforms a 9-5 employee into a student. Being a student is really about headspace and attitude. Simply enrolling a person into an educational program doesn’t do it.

In addition to the problem of the unwilling student, I also see gross over-promising at work in the LMR system. Again, this is a huge problem in mainstream education, where students are led to entirely unrealistic expectations regarding (for example) the earning potential of your average BA. But in this case the students aren’t victims of their own inflated expectations, but rather of inflated systemic assumptions.

As soon as a student finishes the LMR process, that student is very likely to be “deemed” at the average income for the job just trained for. No consideration for the difficulty of finding that job, no allowance for the fact that older adults (injured ones, no less) have a harder time securing employment, no allowance for sincere efforts resulting in under-employment. If you’ve been trained to be a refrigerator repairman then as soon as you’re done your course you’d better find work, because you’ll be assumed to earn that average salary anyway. And the “averages” used here look anything but average to me.

Even though education still pays off in the aggregate, it often takes even typical students a long time to secure stable jobs and to enjoy that benefit. Many students are left at loose ends after they are out of school. Often they fall back on jobs they held before or during studies (service sector, mostly) to make ends meet until they can find better jobs in their fields. Frequently they move home with family in order to help with that transition. A student going through the LMR process, by contrast, is actually disabled from his or her previous job. That’s the entire issue. And family, as often as not, means dependents who need support rather than parents who can provide it.

Finally, there’s the question of quality and the “buyer beware” marketplace out there. Students in LMR programs are usually training in vocational fields – which typically means college. But public colleges generally work on the academic year – starting in September – and workplace injuries occur at inconvenient times. So students are shunted off to private career colleges, which make up in convenience what they lack in legitimacy. You’ve seen these places advertising on the subway. Train now for a new career in just 27 weeks! Oh they charge an arm and a leg, but if it’s a LMR situation it’s probably cheaper to pay for the fast option rather than support the worker for a longer period until September rolls around.

These minimally regulated for-profit institutions have always irked me. Macleans.ca ran a number of stories on this subject, especially regarding for-profit institutions in B.C. But at least the “buyer beware” scenario has some logic to it. I can invest in a bad car just as I can invest in a bad education, and I have at least some responsibility as a consumer to be informed. But in a LMR situation the student is not actually the buyer. It’s the WSIB that’s paying for the program. So students are sometimes forced into the faster, easier options, when in fact they could certainly qualify for better education, if only the WSIB would wait for that.

I’ve been dying to write on this subject for ages. It’s a big part of what I’m doing this summer. What fascinates me about LMR is that it proves the utter ubiquity of these issues and problems. Education, as a social issue, cuts right through society and isn’t only relevant to 20-somethings. How we understand education, and the way we structure it, is relevant to everyone. Sometimes it becomes very relevant again when you least expect it.

And by the way, please be careful at work. It’s nice we have a system of workplace insurance, and I trust it’s better than nothing, but I wouldn’t wish dealing with it on my worst enemy.

Questions are welcome at jeff.rybak@utoronto.ca. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.


 
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Labour Market Reentry – The Ultimate Captive Student

  1. Excellent analysis of the WSIB’s draconian LMR system! It is disguised as an attempt to re-employ the disabled worker but is really a way for the WSIB to dump the worker from their payroll.

    Workers compensation is paid for by corporations (not by taxpayers) so corporate lobby groups are constantly wanting WSIB to find ways of reducing their fees. This LMR scam is one of those ways.

    It is only when WSIB REFUSES to pay compensation that the costs are downloaded onto the taxpayer through welfare, CPP, increased health care costs, etc.

    Whole families (children included) are forced into poverty by the failure of the workers compensation system in Canada.

    For more information about the failure of the workers compensation system see the Canadian Injured Workers Society at http://www.ciws.ca

  2. Here is a story about a man whose death can be linked to the draconian system the WSIB uses to close files. The disparity along with the secondary extreme stress related illneses all due to having to participate in the WSIB LMR programs, can and does lead to death when medical and psychological intervention and proper rehabilitation, both physical and psychological, is with held from the injured worker because of cost effectiveness and the determination of the WSIB to close out a files.

    Pete Clare
    Lambton Shores

    http://iwocac.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2011525%3ABlogPost%3A961

  3. I didn’t know much about LMR programs so thanks for illuminating the subject. I DO know something about EI programs and the attitude towards education is just one of the problems with EI.

    An individual who has lost their job cannot gain access to education without losing their EI benefits unless the training is approved by HRDC. The only type of training they approve of falls under the category of what is called “skills development” which means quick fix and you’re out the door job training programs. It sounds similar to the LMR training. This is great if you want to train to be a labourer in some sector of the economy that the government feels is in need of workers, but not so great if you were in a career path that can only be enhanced through post-secondary education or if you were a student at the time that you lost your job. If you are a student (even part-time) and you lose the job that was supporting you through your studies, you either don’t get benefits (even though you’ve been paying into the system), or you are forced to drop out of say, your nursing degree, to train as an apprentice welder because this is what HRDC thinks makes more sense. Unless your course hours are few and take place late at night, your education is deemed to be an unacceptable hindrance to your employability. I found myself in this category several years ago when I was laid off from a full-time job. I had flexible hours and had been taking degree courses in the hope of getting a real job one day that would not involve constant layoffs. I was not allowed to continue with my degree and receive benefits at the same time. Unlike the self-employed, students are not able to opt-out of paying EI and so are forced to pay into a system that they can’t access.

    The system essentially forces people NOT to upgrade their skills in any meaningful way so that they are MORE likely to be in repetitive situations of precarious employment. According to a Toronto Star article last March 17, 75% of people who are paying into the EI system do not qualify for benefits. People who actually want to participate in education are part of that 75% and, in the long run, a lot of people who don’t qualify will be forced into the world of welfare or crime instead of a classroom.

  4. Jeff Rybak has exposed one of the dark secrets of the last few decades. As a spouse of an injured worker I have lived the last eight years supporting an uncompensated victim of a WCB system that has been over run by neo-conservative ideology.

    We, the public, were led to believe that we are protected from workplace injury related losses by a compensation system mandated by law. What we really have is a system of liability avoidance mandated by law that leaves the injured workers as uncompensated burdens on their families and leaves the employer protected from civil legal actions by WCB legislation. What we have is a system of denial and benefit avoidance that every business and individual pays into but most receive little benefit from.

    I have recently come to understand the views of Charles Dickens as Canada, in the 21st Century begins to devolve into 19th Century industrial chaos. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer as desperation and hunger leads to rebellion.

    Neither the WCB nor Canadian employers bear the burden of helping the injured worker in their efforts to return to productive work in 2008. WCB (or EI) Education “benefits” are just another excuse to unload liability on someone else, on anyone else, other than the compensation system or the employer.

    We as voters need to reassess the WCB system and ask ourselves why we still have it. As it stands today many injured workers would rather have the right to sue their employers into bankruptcy rather than subject themselves to the pain and agony of dealing with the WCB.

    As voters, we need to reassess WCB legislation before the starving injured workers are forced into violent revolution. We need to ask why the politicians that we elected into office have been ignoring the representations by injured worker over the last decade. Who is buying the politicians votes? It certainly is not the impoverished injured workers.

    Only the electorate can change this situation.

    Collateral Damage
    (Just another impoverished spouse of an injured Canadian worker)

  5. To the folks who have replied, thus far, and the additional few who have e-mailed me, I just want to say that I’m humbled by the experiences you’ve shared. By day I’m one of many going-on-second-year law students working in a legal aid clinic trying to do something worthwhile and by night I’m just a guy with a blog who tries to write something worth reading once in a while. I certainly don’t deserve any special credit for drawing attention to human experiences that just scream out for attention all on their own – and yet often get very little.

    There’s a lot going through my head right now, but mostly it comes down to a single truth. “Social Justice” is not an empty phrase to bandy around politics, and it isn’t a concept that should be associated with hippies and radicals. Social justice simply means taking care of our sick and poor and vulnerable, and giving a leg up to the people who need it, even though it may require us all to live a slightly more moderate lifestyle. Social justice means paying the taxes it requires to live in a society we can be proud of, rather than stepping over homeless people in the street and shutting away our aged and injured into group housing where they are out of sight and out of mind. Social justice is a real concept, and relevant to many people, and what keeps the people disempowered is that not enough of us are able to connect the dots from issue A to issue B to issue C and realize that in the end it’s all about the kind of society we want to live in and create together.

    That’s about all I can say on the topic right now. I’ll see if I can find more in the future, perhaps for another entry.

  6. Jeff, your article is misleading your readers with respect to Private Career Colleges. You wouldn’t say that doctors as a whole are illigitimate just because some doctors cheat the system. Similarly you shouldn’t say that all PCCs “lack in legitimacy” if you’re not familiar with the sector or are unaware of how they’re regulated.

    You denigrate PCCs by calling them “minimally regulated for-profit institutions”; that’s completely off the mark. You’re likely not aware that the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, after extensive consultation with the PCC sector and the Ontario Association of Career Colleges enacted the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 with accompanying regulations that make operating a PCC one of the most regulated sectors of the entire economy. They require annual financial statements from all PCCs, specify the requirements of our advertising & faculty qualifications, mandate an arduous process for approving new programs and inspect our facilities (in contrast, community colleges approve their own programs). Individuals with a bad track record are prohibited from opening a school again. All organizations providing career training including private for-profit and non-profit are now covered by this law.

    A major element of the new law is the Training Completion Assurance Fund (TCAF), of which I personally led the OACC committee for 7 years working with the government to bring this level of consumer protection. TCAF works much like the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation where all banks contribute to the fund and in the event that a given bank fails, their depositors investments is protected. TICO does the same for the Travel Industry. In the same way, TCAF is there to assure that students complete the education they’ve invested in if a given PCC should close suddenly. All PCCs pay into the fund annually.

    You may not know that Private Career Colleges have been training adults in Ontario (and across Canada) for 100 years BEFORE Community Colleges even existed. Several PCCs are now over 100 years old in Ontario. Your parents or their friends may have gone to these Business Schools as they were known then.

    Not everyone is suited for the traditional education environment in publicly funded College of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT) with their focus on primarily fresh high school grads. Classes of 50 and 100 in institutions of 5,000 or more may work well for some people, but many prefer the more personal environment and smaller classes delivered at a Private Career College where they’ll know your name and care about your success.

    A fraction of the people who start a public diploma program complete it, yet the large majority of PCC students complete their program with graduates going on to career relevant jobs. A 2 year program taught in a CAAT is just over 1,000 hours of education. The same content is taught at a PCC (with the same books, the same qualifications of instructors, and often with the same regulatory body – e.g. Paralegal, Dental, Pharmacy…). The difference is that PCCs teach continuously, rather than taking the summers off, and don’t teach general and civic education courses, concentrating all their courses on the core courses that people are actually paying to take. There are also no sports teams, cheerleading squads or pub crawls at PCCs as our focus is not to help you grow up, but rather to help you find a new career as quickly as possible.

    You talked about 27 week programs at PCCs. The average length of our programs is more like 10 months (roughly equivalent to a 2 year CAAT diploma), though certificate programs as short as 3 months to diploma programs as long as 3 years are offered. One now offers Ontario government approved Private Degrees.

    Lastly, you state that PCCs “charge an arm and a leg” for their programs. Community Colleges actually charge more, albeit their tuition paid by the student is much lower, they are subsidized 80% by the taxpayer and when you add the miscellaneous extra fees that they charge, and factor in the capital grants also funded by taxpayers, the government and society is getting a much better value with Private Career Colleges, especially when serving the adult student re-entering the education system, like the LMR students your article is about.

    Jeff, I’d like to invite you to a tour of Private Career Colleges. I’ve done one for MTCU in May and will be doing another next week. Feedback from the last one was “The Ministry representatives learned a great deal about our sector as they saw quite a diversity of program offerings and locations. Reportedly the Ministry officials thought that it was the best tour they have ever been on – they couldn’t say enough positive things about the day.”

    Spend a day, and I’ll bring you to a half dozen schools including our own and have you meet the adminstrators, faculty and talk to some students (I may even be able to treat you to lunch at an award winning private culinary school). As several MTCU Ministers have said, most private career colleges are good schools, run by people who care about their students. Just as there are always a few bad doctors, lawyers, politicians and cops, don’t let a few bad apples spoil your impressions of the great value that is delivered to adult students at Private Career Colleges.

    Frank Gerencser
    Past-President, Ontario Association of Career Colleges
    CEO, triOS College Business Technology Healthcare

  7. The W.S.I.B., is now and has become a corrupted entity mking me ashamed to say that I am Canadian!

  8. Re: Frank on Private Career Colleges

    What it comes down to is that you’re way less likely to get a job coming out of one of these places. I would personally not consider hiring someone from a career college because I know that a) they accept anyone with a big cheque b) they hire instructors who have “industry experience” but no real qualifications, and c) the students are likely not going to have a well-rounded education

    I have seen the job ads for instructors for these places. They often ask for 2 – 3 years experience in whatever field. Can you imagine paying 3x more tuition and sitting in a classroom with someone who has no educational qualifications, has worked in their job for only three years and now considers themselves a teacher? I was offered a job myself at one of these colleges a few years back and trust me, I was definately not qualified to teach (I declined because the pay was low).

    I actually attended one of these places at one time before moving on to a real school. Maybe things have changed a bit but back then it was low quality education for high prices. In my opinion, career colleges target immigrants with poor English, high school drop outs, and others who do not have the qualifications to get into public post-secondary education. And I guess I can add injured workers to that list too.

  9. This blog is wandering off the Labour Market Reentry issue somewhat but as a person trained by numerous private tech schools I can attest to the fact that these certificates won’t even get you past the initial screening in most human resource departments today.

    I have spent the last 40 years working at the “bleeding edge” of new technology applications and virtually all of my training was supplied by equipment manufacturers and private schools long before any college or university even had a course relating to my field. When the public courses were finally designed, I was often the “industry expert” who assisted the faculty in course design.

    Today I can’t even get an interview for a job that I have been successfully doing for the last decade because the courses that I helped design are now considered a prerequisite to getting past the human resources filter for an interview. To quote one HR recruitment specialist “Diplomas and degrees are a kind of ‘short hand’ used to create the list of candidates for any job today”. It seems public Universities and Colleges are now an extremely expensive way of getting taxpayers to subsidize understaffed HR departments. I challenge the senior management of any department in a large organization today to apply for a job in their own department under an assumed name and see what happens.

    Injured workers retraining under LMR programs DO NOT have the same opportunities for job interviews as recent graduates. The greater the injury or the older the employee is the less likely they are to get the interview. Dispite the cries of a domestic “labour shortage” by many industries, the certification bias in their own HR departments is excluding many highly experienced injured workers from even getting the interview let alone the job. Outdated LMR policies by workplace injury insurers are simply inadequate to the task of dealing with the current market place and are at best delusional, at worst criminal.

    The real options for a 55 year old injured technology or health care worker are a)to go back to university for 4 years (without pay or compensation)to get that 60 minute interview, b)retrain as a department store greeter, c) give up and collect welfare or d)start your own business(if you still have any funds after surviving your injury and the “help” from the WCB’s).

    Many injured workers, as financial supporters of their families, simply slip into a downward spiral into poverty taking their families with them.

    This pattern of benefits denial and inappropriate retraining programs by WCB’s(hiding from Google under new names like WSIB or Work Safe), by Employment Insurance and by private insurers is leading to an alarming errosion of the working middle class of Canada.

    How is this good for business? How is this good for Canada?

    (author info: Collateral Damage is the spouse of an uncompensated injured health care worker)

  10. To Frank Gerencser regarding the quality of Private Career Colleges: I have no doubt that you are right in your assertion that PCCs are not all bad, but the real question to me is, what is the long term outcome for the students – and I am not talking about immediate placement statistics – I am talking about long term results, i.e., how many students are still employed in their field of training five years afterwards?

    It is too easy to get a person (in this case an injured worker) dumped into a temporary or unsuitable job so that the workers compensation board can them dump them from the payroll.

    The issue of ‘deeming’, where the graduate injured worker is dumped from the WSIB whether they have a job or not is just too convenient and tempting for the insurance provider and for the PCC who gets paid by WSIB for providing the training. Deeming is, in my opinion, a criminal act.

    If the PCCs are playing into this LMR/Deeming scheme, they DO need to answer for that, if not politically and financially, then at least morally.

    The rise in family and child poverty in Canada is directly related to these issues.

  11. In reply to Frank Gerencser’s comments, I should make at least a couple of concessions before I move any further with this topic.

    First, I’m willing to concede the sticker price of private career colleges reflects the absence of government subsidy more than anything. This could invite some complex analysis of who pays (the WSIB paying the full freight of a private college from employers’ accident coverage vs. general taxpayers funding a substantial portion of the real cost of public education) but for the purposes of this piece I’m not so interested in that analysis. My main point, based out of my concern for the student, is that the sticker price of a private college normally kicks in the caveat emptor instinct and forces students to consider very seriously the value of their investment and possible alternatives. When that investment is mediated by the WSIB students lose the opportunity for analysis.

    Second, I concede at least provisionally that private career colleges fill an important niche by providing education for students who may not be suited for public education systems. But my primary critique of LMR is that it drives students who could succeed in public education into private colleges for reasons that have no relation to their aptitudes or profiles as students. Once the cost of actually supporting the student is factored in, it’s far more economical to get the student into something that starts sooner and is done faster, no matter that the cost of the program itself is higher. So even though I’ll allow that private colleges may be the right choice for some students, I maintain that LMR results in the wrong choice for many.

    I won’t enter into the debate of whether the elements that are removed from a two year program in order to reduce it to ten months are superfluous or not. I won’t claim I have the credentials to evaluate that question. But I’m quite sure that question doesn’t factor into WSIB decision-making.

    As for the rest, I am currently making arrangements to take Mr. Gerencser up on his offer of a tour, and when I do I promise there will be a story or two coming out of that.

  12. Reply to Jeff:
    Thanks for the quick reply Jeff. It’s much more even handed, though you’ll have to admit that you are still clearly biased in favour of public education (this is understandable as you’ve said that you’re in the public university system and don’t have the exposure to PCCs). It will be my job to educate you, your peers and your readers on the value that PCCs deliver and that for a large number, not just some, of adult learners, Private Career Colleges are the ideal choice. I’m not trying to denigrate public education – I’m a 1984 Waterloo Engineering grad myself. Just as there are different values that public universities and public colleges bring, and attract different audiences on an aggregate basis, similarly public and private colleges serve different audiences in general.

    What’s better – a hammer or a saw? It depends upon what you’re trying to do.

    You wrote:
    : My main point, based out of my concern for the
    : student, is that the sticker price of a private college
    : normally kicks in the caveat emptor instinct and forces
    : students to consider very seriously the value of their
    : investment and possible alternatives. When that investment is
    : mediated by the WSIB students lose the opportunity for analysis.

    And separately wrote:
    : it drives students who could succeed in public education into private colleges (which implies that public is better than private .. But I contend that it depends on the person…)

    If you separate out the WSIB element of the comparison, and look at a student funding the program with their own money (or at least with their own choice even if they’re funded or subsidized by another party), you need to compare what they’re getting vs. their cost (including their opportunity cost). I won’t do a full analysis here, but if a PCC program costs $12,000 for a 12 month program of 1,200 hours vs. a CAAT program costing 4 semesters at $2,000 for $8,000 (ignoring the cost of taxpayer subsidization) which takes 20 months due to the summer off and covers just about 1,100 hours, then on the surface they’re saving $4,000 in the public system. However, they’re giving up the opportunity to be working in their field almost a year earlier, and earning $25K, 35K, 45K depending on the program and subtracting say 40% for taxes which is well over $10K in earnings in just the 8 months. If you factor that they can start almost any month at a PCC vs. waiting for September, the opportunity cost of going to a CAAT can double. Also, CAAT schedules are typically scattered (a few hours one morning, a few in another afternoon, and even in the evening) making it harder to hold a part time job. A PCC schedule is usually a block schedule of regular mornings or afternoons allowing them to earn more money while going through.

    If you’re 17-18 years of age and living at home, or supporting in residence by parents, these opportunity costs are often moot as you need both learning and life experience. I plan to send my own teenagers to the public system in a few years for this reason. However, if you’re 30, 40 or 50 (BTW, the average age of PCC students is 29), with kids, a mortgage, and bills to pay, you want to get back to work as quickly as possible (sometimes in “just 27 weeks” although the average length is typically 10 months).

    Jeff, I look forward to our tour – it should only take a few weeks to set up. Summer schedules are always difficult, but I hope we can arrange this before the traditional start of school in September (of course, in our world of PCCs, we’re always open).

    Frank Gerencser
    Past-President, Ontario Association of Career Colleges
    CEO, triOS College Business Technology Healthcare

  13. Reply to Jane Edgett:

    Jane, thank you for being open minded and for asking some good questions, especially about the long term outcomes for students.

    Unfortunately, there are no studies or solid statistics that can answer that question with authority. PCCs are measured on their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) including Graduation Rate, Graduate Employment Rate and Default Rate in a similar way as the public universities and colleges. With our relatively small graduating cohorts at individual PCCs, the numbers are skewed and there has been a moratorium on collection for 2 years as we work with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to develop a more relevant measure.

    There was a recent study on PCCs that I’ll look for that shows the valuable role and differentiated student base that we serve. I recall that it is working on a “looking back” study as part two. I’ll post a link if I find it.

    With respect to the “Deeming” process, the first I heard of the term or practice was reading Jeff’s initial article. As a PCC, we’re a secondary service provider to WSIB, where a client first goes through a counsellor to determine the best course of action for an injured worker, and where appropriate arranges training intervention at a Private Career College, a Community College or another specialty provider.

    Although I don’t personally get involved with the primary service providers or WSIB itself, my understanding from our admissions personnel is that they go through a detailed process to find the best solution and often fund academic upgrading (where required) to help workers succeed in follow-on post-secondary training.

    They recommend individual PCCs based on their performance with past workers w.r.t. student satisfaction, academic and employment results. At our own college, we’ve trained hundreds of WSIB funded individuals over the past few years and we compete with other PCCs and CAATs with quality and customer service – after all it’s in our interest. Other PCCs would have the same incentive.

    I’m not sure if I’ve answered your question, but hopefully I shed some light on the bigger picture.

    Frank Gerencser
    Past-President, Ontario Association of Career Colleges
    CEO, triOS College Business Technology Healthcare

  14. In reply to Frank’s last post about deeming, this is a highly complex topic but one I’d like to do some justice because it affects so many injured workers and families to a desperate degree. I don’t fault private career colleges (PCCs – a new acronym) for this, save in one limited sense. The LMR process is highly mediated and the actual college is at the end of that process. It isn’t the college’s fault that newly retrained workers who can’t find employment are treated as though they are receiving that income anyway. It doesn’t surprise me senior administration is unaware of this.

    The one gripe I have against PCCs here is this. When a worker has been retrained and deemed it’s at least possible to challenge that on several bases. We might argue that the worker is technically qualified but uncompetitive in a flooded marketplace. We might argue there isn’t much employment available in the field. We might argue the field wasn’t suitable in the first place given the worker’s restrictions. We might even argue the worker simply isn’t ready (physically, psychologically, etc.) to go back to work.

    When it comes to these arguments, PCCs are singularly unhelpful and instinctively defensive. No one wants to admit the job market for a program they offer is flooded with qualified graduates. And so instead of something realistic there’s a gross exaggeration that gets reported to the WSIB. No one wants to suggest a graduate emerges with less than stellar opportunities. No one wants to admit a graduate might not be ready to work (when that’s the very purpose of PCCs) even if the constraint might be unrelated to training.

    I’ve yet to see anything from a PCC that was helpful in making an appeal – even when the natural justice of the appeal is apparent to any human set of eyes. I’ve called one PCC and ended up talking directly to the President in one transfer – that’s how scared everyone was of even answering me. Maybe some of that defensiveness is justified, after all media types like me do seem to be out to get them. But inflated claims and promises, even if they are only inflated to the “normal” degree we’d expect in the open marketplace, end up screwing injured workers very badly. And it’s hard for me to get over that, even though I acknowledge that PCCs have no direct role in deeming and may even be unaware of it.

  15. Frank, thank you for your reply. It does not surprise me that no (or few) studies have been done on the long term employability of injured workers. There is no incentive for the PCCs to do this nor is there any incentive for the WSIB to do this (as long as they can fall back on deeming). Theoretically, the government should be the one to be concerned because they pay the downstream costs of poverty but, as we know, governments tend to respond only to crisis and only when that crisis has become a media event. So nothing has been done.

    I do not blame PCCs for the LMR/Deeming scam. I put the blame squarely on the government for turning a blind eye to the injustices faced by disabled workers when dealing with the WSIB (and other provincial workers compensation boards). The PCCs are simply opportunistic profit seeking corporations and are following that mandate. I believe they also do serve a good purpose in some instances as ‘Collateral Damage’ has described above.

    However, in this blog we are discussing WSIB, LMR and Deeming and in that context, PCCs are intimately involved for good or bad. From my exposure to the first hand stories of disabled workers, I see that, often, the relationship between workers compensation boards, PCCs and the disabled worker becomes one of profit for the PCC and WSIB at the expense of the disabled worker and their family. It is a relationship that abuses trust and often ends up in the disabled worker and their family being cast into a long death-spiral into poverty. And, no, ‘death’ is not too strong a word to use in this context as many families have reported the death or suicide of their disabled family member, a statistic which is hidden by workers compensation’s faulty statistics reporting.)

  16. Frank Gerencser’s comment about being unaware of “deeming” as a WSIB practice highlights the problem of isolated information silos. Although many organizations are part of the injured worker’s life few, if any, of them have a complete overview of how the interactions between agencies can conflict.

    Each organization has their own goals, budgets and measures of “success”. No one however seems to be tasked with overseeing the broader public interest of returning the injured worker to the greatest degree of sustainable independent living that is possible. The injured workers themselves often have little control over their lives once they get swallowed up by this maelstrom of “support”.

    Virtually every organization that the injured worker encounters seems to be focused on their own internal quick solutions and maximizing ROI. The faster the injured worker is off their books and passed onto some other agency the better. It appears that the volume of traffic passing through the agency is more important than the long term outcomes for the injured worker.

    The needs of the injured workers and the broader society in which they live seem secondary to the internal needs of the service providers. This is evident in both public and private organizations.

    Ultimately the families of the injured workers and, sooner or later, the taxpayers get left holding the bag for the downstream costs of these quick fix solutions.

  17. Pingback: Good Old Fashioned Education: The Carrot and the Stick : Macleans OnCampus

  18. I read your article with interest. I have been working with adult learners in LMR programs for more than 10 years, and I can say from first hand experience that the LMR program has assisted thousands of injured workers the opportunity to re-enter the workforce in meaningful and satisfying positions.

    We are not a Private Career College as we do not offer vocational training, but I agree with Frank regarding his comments on these PCCs. A large majority of the adults we’ve worked with over the last 10 years would not succeed in traditional college programs, so they need to have access to registered, regulated vocational programs such as those covered by the PCC Act in order to receive the training they need to get back to work.

    Something that you did not cover in your article and has not been mentioned in subsequent comments is that organizations which offer programs to ‘3rd party’ agencies (like the WSIB) are exempt from registration under the PCC act. Consequently, there are a multitude of training agencies currently offering unregistered programs to injured workers, who are in turn expected to gain employment in these fields — often competing with students who have completed registered programs. In addition, many of these programs actually result in students receiving ‘certificates’ and ‘diplomas’ that are essentially not worth the paper they’re written on. I find this practice irresponsbile and misleading to students looking to change occupations.

    I would highly recommend that all students and potential students in LMR programs research the school they’re attending and visit the PCC website to see which programs are truly registered and which are not. Further, each location of every organization has to be registered separately, so having one campus registered absolutely does not translate to other locations, even if they’re offering the same program.

    Kate Bird
    Career Essentials

  19. Kate,
    I was unaware that, as you say “. . . organizations which offer programs to ‘3rd party’ agencies (like the WSIB) are exempt from registration under the PCC act.”

    Obviously some LMR recipients are getting better training than others. I assume the WSIB would choose the least expensive of their options. If the unregistered PCCs are less expensive than the registered ones, then the WSIB would probably lean toward using them more often.

    The result would be injured workers who are receiving inferior training and, as you say, “. . . competing with students who have completed registered programs.”

    The fact that a government department (the WSIB) is allowing this is definitely “irresponsible” and I would add that this misleading of injured workers into programs that “result in students receiving ‘certificates’ and ‘diplomas’ that are essentially not worth the paper they’re written on.” is a violation of the Charter rights of the disabled. The WSIB should be taken to task for this practice.

    The Canadian Injured Workers Society is calling for a federal public judicial inquiry into wrongdoing by workers compensation boards across Canada
    (at http://www.gopetition.com/online/19942.html )

    This is another offence that can be added to the list.

  20. I’m a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant – the intermediary between the injured worker and WSIB. I create the LMR plan with the worker, propose it to WSIB and monitor the plan to completion. My job itself, and my job satisfaction rely equally on WSIB and the worker, so I feel I have an even perspective on both sides. With that said, I can see needed revisions to the current LMR program, but I strongly believe in it’s neccessity.

    The LMR program does not work for individuals making less than $12.00/hr. The WSIB wastes tens of thousands of dollars, and often about three years of the worker’s life having the worker ‘upgrade’ to become employable in a minimum wage job such as customer service agent or retail sales associate. Cynical but effective, it would be wiser for the CA’s to give that injured worker 6 months to find a telemarketing job, top up their earnings from minimum wage, and pay the worker in cash a sum near what would have been mispent on ‘retraining’.

    The WSIB LMR program allows no proper exclusions for older injured workers, and workers with social/mental barriers to re-entering the work force. These workers can approach this legally with a satisfactory outcome, but not within the program. A true example: an angry, injured mechanic 55 year old mechanic, with poor hygeine, and a grade 8 education is NOT competitively employable in an office position no matter how fabulous the retraining.

    Above $12.00/hr, for a worker under 40 years old, college is considered (typically). When the worker is not wholly against school, the worker wins. They receive paid, what their non-sponsored classmates do not: A full salary, application costs, paid tuition, textbooks and required supplies, a brand new computer, tutoring, and transporation costs. Instead of having to work night jobs and summer jobs, they focus on homework and volunteer during the summer – boosting their resume further. Upon graduating, they have a one month grace period and job search course to find a job for which they have just been trained.

    One major point is this – the maximum education requirements are always proposed (this takes into particular account private vs public colleges), in conjunction with the lowest expected wage associated with the job. This allows for the worker to start from the bottom, without incurring a personal wage loss, with the freedom to pursue salary growth if it is desired.

    The unemployable are pushed through a system bound for failure, while the college-eligible cases are disproportionately overindividualised to the point of stupidity. If your consultant is creative, you can take a three year diploma in Basketweaving, receiving a top-up from $12.00/hour… and with another consultant, you may be forced to take a two year General Business diploma, assuming an $18.00/hr target wage.

    College-eligible cases should receive tuition, textbooks and full salary for one year of upgrading, plus a college level program of their choice (in conjunction with the provision of career/vocational counselling) for a flat, researched and accurate target rate. $35,000.00 is reasonable… but again, research is key.Then, the 6-month job search support should be reimplimented. Finding a job takes time. The worker regains control, independence, choice, and makes use of the financial resources available through the program – rather than being forced through it.

  21. You say “The WSIB LMR program allows no proper exclusions for older injured workers, and workers with social/mental barriers to re-entering the work force. These workers can approach this legally with a satisfactory outcome, but not within the program.”

    I am assuming by this that you mean the injured worker must proceed with the appeal system and ultimate court action against the WSIB – all this while trying to heal physically and mentally AND while being financially broke.

    I suspect most injured workers would not choose that road considering the legal firepower the WSIB has at their fingertips. It would be a David and Goliath fight. Also, no court will award a worker damages. The best that can be achieved by a worker is for the court to order the case back to the WCB for reassessment. If the WCB is stubborn, the whole fight will have been for naught with the injured worker left more mentally and financially beaten.

    You then say, “Upon graduating, they have a one month grace period and job search course to find a job for which they have just been trained.”

    Then, I assume, they are on their own, job or no job, i.e., deeming. We all know that a college degree is not as valuable as it used to be and is now considered a bare minimum for many jobs. This does not make the new injured graduate very competitive.

    You suggest instead a 6 month job search window. I suggest that there should be NO window. The worker should be paid by WSIB until they are re-employed, period.

    Your ‘inside look’ at the WSIB process is valuable in that it shows how Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants work. However, as your paycheque comes from the WSIB and not from the injured worker, I would venture to suggest that, while you personally may have “an even perspective on both sides”, not all Vocational Rehabilitation Consultants may be that even handed.

    There are stories of workers compensation boards refusing to pay medical doctors unless that doctor writes the diagnosis that the WC Board wants. If they can do this with doctors, they can do this with VRCs as well, maybe not by direct interference, but by finding ways of replacing the VRCs who don’t cooperate appropriately with the WC agenda.

    In the case of doctors, they send the case back to the doctor again and again until the doctor gives up and refuses all WCB cases OR the WCB shops around for doctors who are more compliant with WCB wishes. This is the infamous ‘WCB Medical Panel’ who have been seen by injured workers as biased.

    I’m sure similar tactics can be used against VRCs.

    While I agree that the theory of getting a worker back to full employment may be commendable, it is too open to abuse and it is always the vulnerable worker who suffers.

  22. Working in a legal clinic which represents injured workers, Mr. Rybak has a one-sided view of the LMR programs; he does not see the students in our classrooms as they are working through their programs. Nor does he monitor their progress after they have successfully completed a program and go off to college or a job. Granted, not everyone is happy with their programs, but there are many who have embraced the process and see this as a new lease on life, and an opportunity for a new life for their families. He is in the unenviable position of meeting people when they are at their lowest – they are disgruntled, they haven’t accepted their injuries and the fact that their lives are changing, and they are afraid. By the time that he meets the clients they have put up barriers for their futures: they don’t always believe in their new life path mainly because it was not what they had chosen to do with their lives when they were young. They have told themselves that they can’t do it, or they don’t want to do it. And they seek counsel.

    But would it be better to leave these people languishing at home in self-pity with no direction to their lives? Wouldn’t it be more productive to work with them to set out a new path to follow? Many who are initially reluctant, often change their attitudes.

    Mr. Rybak paints the injured worker as an angry and depressed beast, against whom the system works. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see the worker who welcomes the second chance at life and an education, and sees their LMR plan as an opportunity, something they never would have done independently – nor would they have been able to afford to do – after their injury without the support of WSIB. The LMR program has given them a good chance for success, and a new life for their family. It has gotten them out of the house, where an injured person is prone to wallowing in self-pity and nurturing the ‘woe is me’ mentality. They come into our small, personalized classroom settings at Career Essentials, and are given goals to work towards, their self-esteem is lifted, self-confidence is boosted, and they have a purpose. Structure and predictability is reintroduced into their life. I think this is a huge part of their healing process, and a boon to those who embrace this opportunity. At the legal clinic, Mr. Rybak is meeting the workers who are discontented and litigious. I wonder if he gets to meet the people who are satisfied.

    Many of the workers I have spoken with were lured out of high school in pursuit of money. At an early age they were unable to see the need for an education, and saw school more as a place to mark time until they could get into the workforce. I often hear people say things like ‘If I could go back….I would have finished my education.” Or ‘I never should have dropped out of school.’ Many would never have chosen to be in school at this phase of their life if they had not been injured. Initially, some are unwilling to participate in their LMR programs, and focus on the negatives. Some are placed in the wrong programs. But I have yet to meet an LMR case manager who didn’t care or hadn’t worked their hardest with the client to find something that was of interest to them. Life doesn’t always work out the way we planned, but it is what we make of it. I wonder what these people would have done without the WSIB to guide them – would they have been worse off without the new options they have?

    There are secondary service providers, like Career Essentials, who have employees who care about what is happening to these injured workers, and who expend a lot of time and energy into providing them with the best possible education, provide encouragement, give job search training and find work for the workers. There are case managers at the LMR level who spend their weekends worrying about their clients and putting in extra hours rewriting proposals after a worker has changed their minds again about their future. There are workers who are ready and willing to accept the opportunities offered to them, and these are the ones who excel.

    It is vital that these workers get the support they need from WSIB – medical, and emotional. Counseling, physiotherapy, whatever is needed – the worker shouldn’t have to worry about these things. I think counseling is vital – and often overlooked. You can’t take a livelihood – which is often their identity – away from a person, have their family’s financial future in jeopardy, and not give them the emotional support they need. This is an area I feel is grossly neglected.

    Not all workers on WSIB feel like they are being railroaded by the system. I wish Mr. Rybak could see what we see day to day in our classrooms. I invite him to do so.

  23. Hi Jan-Marie

    With due respect, your opening paragraph sounds like you are pushing a cult. You suggest that those who are experiencing dissatisfaction are not successful because they haven’t “embraced the process” and have “put up barriers.”

    While I have deep criticisms of the LMR process generally, I never attempted to hang those problems on training providers alone. You, rather, seem to believe that everyone who shows up in your classroom should succeed and any failure reflects a problem with their attitude. That perspective is terrifying. It suggests you think you have a universal elixir that should solve everyone’s problems. No one has that. If you think you do, it proves you simply aren’t capable of self-examination.

    I see workers at every stage in their dealings with the WSIB and with their LMR programs. I acknowledge I see workers who are having problems with their claims, but I haven’t yet met an injured worker who had entirely smooth and uncomplicated dealings with the WSIB. Any worker who has a workplace injury needs a representative. In other words, almost anyone can be a client here. I see workers who are having horrible times with their LMR programs, and occasionally I have workers whose files are open for entirely unrelated reasons and are having decent LMR programs. Your assumption that my experiences must be skewed is unwarranted.

    I acknowledged my bias front and centre. I even acknowledged that some workers do have successful LMR programs. But the system, as a whole, is badly broken. I’ve worked with people on every side of the fence who know this and do their best to solve the problems where they can. Recently, I spoke with a wonderful worker at a JSTP (Job Search Training Program) provider, and she was the best ally any worker could hope for. But that’s because she acknowledged the problems in the system and took responsibility for her part in it.

    You, by contrast, seem to think your company can do no wrong, and any failures are the fault of either the worker or the players around you. That’s the problem with “the system.” Responsibility is so decentralized and spread around that anyone can plausibly pass the buck and decline to take any responsibility. I never set out to attack LMR training providers especially. But I’ll gladly hold your attitude up as an example of why I might.

  24. I have persoally been through the LMR process.
    I found the evaluation to be forth coming and fairly accurate and the recomendation of the company fair and reasonable.
    Apparently w*** dod not.
    The recomendation was for 100% benifits and no furthur LMR!!
    this was based on injury(35% NEL) and age (5?).
    I was again denied benefits and retraining based on a medical condition which was fabricated by compo and proven to be false.
    CPP disability paid by taxpayers was my only recourse.
    Our provincial legislators do not want to interfere with WCB,s for fear of having to take this political hot potato back.The system is paid for by employers therefore flawed and biased.
    Still fighting!!

  25. I too have been through the LMR assessments. The psychologist and myself, identified two vocations I was capable of with regards to my education, however, there was also identified a clinical depression and chronic pain syndrome that would first had to be dealt with and treated before I embarked on a three-year university or an accredited college program. The psychological assessment went back to the LMR provider and the WSIB. Through the infinite wisdom of the LMR provider and the WSIB, it was determined, NO LMR would be provided.

    The reason cited was ‘cost effectiveness’. I wondered about who’s ‘cost effectiveness’? Certainly not mine. I had intended on going back to school, obtaining a degree in the identified field, then finding a job or starting my own business, then working as long as I was able. The WSIB had a different idea of cost effectiveness though. First off, the entry level wage for either of the identified vocations was higher than the wage my LOE benefits are currently based on. Secondly, the WSIB figured out, for them to send me to school at my age (5?), I wouldn’t be finished either of the courses until I was near age 60 (I don’t know why that would matter since we have ‘NO Mandatory Retirement’ legislation here in Ontario). Thirdly, it was going to be too expensive to provide treatment for my depression and chronic pain management. Fourthly, was the cost of the university or the college courses. Fifthly, with the help of the WSIB bean counter, it was determined, it cheaper for the WSIB, I receive full LOE benefits until age 65. Sixthly, the WSIB pays benefits until age 65 period. Seventh, the WSIB has sentenced me to house arrest and poverty, with absolutely no chance at a future or making better for myself and my family. That was just a short symposium on my case.

    The problem I see that seems to arise with LMR, as with any program the WSIB contracts out, is the authority or the power over the LMR participant’s life, the WSIB also designates to the LMR providers. Besides the fact, many LMR participants lives are strife with physical, mental, psychological and emotional issues, it would seem adjudicators and LMR providers are void in taking those factors into consideration. Instead and a much a easier thing that’s done, is to ‘deem’ the LMR participant ‘non-cooperative’, then cut off WSIB benefits and discontinue LMR funding. This is one of the fear factors the WSIB use to ensure compliance with LMR programs. This horrendous pressure, deliberately put onto the LMR participant, does absolutely nothing to enhance the learning atmosphere both physically or psychologically.

    Many LMR participants suffering from chronic pain cannot learn. Stress hormones (cortisol) are already running rampant and have adverse effects on cognizance, concentration and learning abilities. If left unchecked, this stress hormone over production, will manifest into much more serious medical and psychological disorders which can and in some cases does lead to death.

    Depression can also be prevalent to the LMR participant, but this can only be diagnosed by series of tests given by GP’s, social workers, psychologist or a psychiatrist, yet the WSIB and LMR providers, will continually discount ‘objective’ as well as ‘subjective medical’ reports in order to keep LMR participants in a depressed, stressed out condition. Disparity and a feeling of hopelessness, also cause elevated stress in the LMR participant’s life. Is it any wonder why, some LMR participants have trouble with learning new skills? I have yet to meet an LMR provider that will report back to the WSIB, that an LMR participant with pain, mental, psychological and emotional distress, is trying their best, but it would seem further medical or psychological intervention may be required before the participant will be able to succeed in any given vocation. I personally know of a case where the LMR participant’s family and friends believe, there is a causal link between the WSIB’s cruel, physical, mental, psychological and emotional terror placed upon an LMR participant, that in fact did lead to and end with the participants death(not suicide).

    LMR providers are not trained or equipped to deal with the thousands of LMR participants suffering from the aforementioned distresses. WSIB adjudicators are not trained or equipped to deal with those distresses either. Instead, adjudicators will find it to be, fiscally and financially responsible for cutting the LMR participant of all benefits for ‘non-cooperation’, then download the disabled worker onto the provincial social networks(ODSP & welfare).

    Until persons disabled by occupation, still suffering the effects of their workplace injury and subsequent disabilities, receive total rehabilitation(physical, mental, psychological and emotional), the LMR program will remain and impossibility for those LMR participants to complete successfully.

    Peter Clare
    Ipperwash Beach
    Ontario

  26. Some very interesting comments that I can agree with and others I have no time for. I have complted my LMR and the final thread that I was hanging on to has broke. In April of this year I completed the 2 yr. program and recieved my diploma. If the stress of that wasn’t enough(been out of school for 15 yrs., three kids all under the age of eight), I was told I had 4 weeks to find a job then I was cut off. Now, realistically to find a job with hundreds of other fresh graduates in the market is almost impossible. I was getting replies back that I don’t have the experience needed to fulfill the job-good point. A previous truck driver now a civil engineer, mid. aged (sniff,sniff) smells fishy, smells like those 4 letters- WSIB, I might as well have contageous cancer. On top of that my previous employer has nothing good to say about me when contacted for references. Now out of desperation I have to go back to the job (against my restrictions) that started this nighmare in the first place and have been told that my claim will be closed. I have done everything I was supposed to do and then some but apparently that has not been good enough. From here nothing looks good, my marriage is done and I am leaving home with nowhere to go. The system is there, does it work? not from what I have been through there is no end in sight of this black cloud that has been hanging over me for the past 5 yrs. I would call it my 2 cents worth but I am going to need them for where I am going.

    Been there, regret it
    Done that, Lord knows I tried

    Wat2s

  27. As an injured worker , scewed by WSIB . i can’t help but wonder why we as canadians don’t have an option.. when i say option i am refering to an option for WSIB.
    i am enraged now being and employer in ontario that i have to pay on behalf of my employees into a fund (WSIB) . knowing that if one of my employees were injured on the job that WSIB will once again screw them over as well …
    why do we not have another option for WSIB available in canada as of yet … is competition not a good thing ??

  28. Hi Jeff,

    Excellent piece on WSIB and unjust treatment of injured workers. What struck a personal cord with me was your comment RE: private career colleges. It is dead on.

    Speaking from my unfortunate and most disappointing experience at Trios College (Frank is the CEO), it is all about marketing and appearences. Rather than Frank offering you a tour of the Trios facilities, let him have you audit part of a course/ module — and then you will experience the poorest quality of teaching that one can imagine. I’ve attended university and I’ve attended career college — and trust me everything that former graduates say about being ripped-off by privately run colleges is absolutely the sad truth.

    All I can say is that what you think you are saving in convenience by attending this private career college – you are most definitely compromising in quality of education, professionalism and competency.

    They sell you ‘hope’ about starting a new career – when what you end up getting is a debt of $14,000 for a 12 month program (that can be taught in half the time) – and the grand prize of starting an entry level job earning poverty level wages of $11/hour – if you can convince an employer to hire you. Employers do not recognize this school as legitimate on a resume – if anything, it works against your chances of getting a job.

    I wish someone had been able to warn me before. I hope who ever reads this does not take it lightly. You are literally throwing money down the drain.

    BUYER BEWARE!! This could be the best free advice you will ever receive.

    Marie
    Toronto, Ontario
    Canada

  29. I am an individual that is finishing an LMR and I believe you are only telling half truths. You are absolutely correct about the timing of the accident and how in the past it has caused delays. However, you neglected to add to your article that one of the options is to upgrade a candidates acedemic skills. This is done by placing him or her at the college level in a new semester, approximately a 12 week period. WSIB does recognize there needs to be improvements made. They look to take the right steps in order to find the most appropriate solution to help an accident victim, return to the workplace making the same wage. If you sir had taken the time to research, you would find that all of their assessments are legislatively based. So there in lies the answer as to why people are sometimes put into these stripmall education centres.

    I have been very lucky to be selected to be sent to a community college. But make no mistake in understanding that at 54 years old, you can truly teach an old dog new tricks. I believe that there are two types of injured workers, one that looks to abuse the system and another that uses the system. All in all WSIB should be commended for its on going strategy to improve what has been legislated. Finally if you sir had done your homework you would have known that there is a new approach for WSIB. Early and Safe Return To Work (ESRTW) now the ball is truly going in their court. Heaven forbid that an employer would have a say as to how this injured epmloyee could be retrained, to help his company in a different position. You sir need to do some more ivestigative research in order to sell me that what I have gone through in retraining will get me an entry position only. Good Day

  30. Given the replies so far, I feel as though I hardly need to reply to the suggestion that I haven’t “done my homework.” In addition to the replies you can read, I still get an e-mail or two every week, if you can believe that, from injured workers who find this article. It’s a sign of how little attention this topic receives that injured workers are finding my humble blog post about it. Would you believe that when you Google “Labour Market Reentry” this hit comes up 4th, after only the WSIB itself and the Office of the Worker Adviser?

    Anyway, to answer Steve’s point, Early and Safe Return To Work isn’t really a new program. You can read about it here if you are interested, though reading WSIB policy doesn’t really lend an accurate picture on how things work, because there’s the policy on paper and then there’s what really happens. Isn’t that always the way? But the gist of the matter is this. Whenever possible, an employer is supposed to work with the WSIB to reemploy an injured worker, either in the pre-accident job in some modified way or in some other capacity entirely. This is subject to several exceptions, and the availability of modified or different work.

    I’ll allow this point entirely. Workers are far better off in the ESRTW program than outside of it. ESRTW may include some retraining. But it is not Labour Market Reentry. LMR is what happens when a worker does not have a job to return to. Entirely distinct from retraining for a new job with the accident employer, after LMR workers are dumped out on the job market to sink or swim, and are deemed fully employed four weeks after they are done retraining, no matter the state of their actual employment. And that’s the real hell of the program.

    I’m glad Steve is doing okay. Very glad of it, in fact. No one at my legal clinic would think twice before agreeing that ESRTW is by far a worker’s best option. But my article isn’t about that. It’s about what happens when workers don’t enjoy that option.

  31. Jeff, you said, “. . . I still get an e-mail or two every week, if you can believe that, from injured workers who find this article. It’s a sign of how little attention this topic receives that injured workers are finding my humble blog post about it. Would you believe that when you Google “Labour Market Reentry” this hit comes up 4th, after only the WSIB itself and the Office of the Worker Adviser?”

    You have hit the crux of the problem. No media outlet wants to touch the story of the failure of the workers compensation system in Canada because:
    1.) they are employers and pay into the system
    2.) their advertisers are employers and pay into the system

    End of story . . . literally.

  32. Interesting article about the failure of the LMR program and exposing it as a scam to dump injured workers from the WSIB payroll.

    “A jobs program that fails”
    MICHAEL STUPARYK/TORONTO STAR
    Jan 24, 2009
    Why does it cost more to retrain this injured worker to stock shelves than it would to send him to university for four years?
    http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/576637

  33. Jeff,

    i know that this is secondary to the main reason for the article, but I am just curious if you have had an opportunity to visit Trios College with Frank?

    I was sold a pack of lies from this “private college”, and have not been able to find a job at all since graduating over six months ago — $14,000 in debt and no further ahead. 6 of my other former classmates are all in the same boat. TOTAL SCAM – i wish i had stumbled on this information a year ago. i feel so taken advantage of —

    Alannon

  34. That is a great article Jane, and thanks for linking to it. I do fear it’s a little bit simplistic, and focused too much on the fact that LMR costs the public too much money (true – even if it’s employers who pay) and not focused nearly enough on how the program chews up and spits out workers. But it’s good to see any attention to these issues, for sure! I still hope to do more myself, at some stage.

    To Alannon, I’m sorry but no, I never did get that tour. I’m sure I should, really, but as a full-time student myself (law and graduate English) and several other things besides it just got shelved. I don’t know if it would achieve anything. The issues surrounding private career colleges are so huge…it’s like tilting at windmills. I think one set of windmills for now, if I take on LMR, is about all I can cope with.

    I’m very sorry to hear about your experiences. Stories such as yours make me feel like I should be doing something about them – but I’m damned if I can figure out what that might be.

  35. Correction – The Toronto Star article I posted above was written by David Bruser. (Stuparyk was the photographer.)

  36. great article

  37. I am an injured worker
    one of those ones who got fired after the injury, assumably due to the pressure put on the employer around return to work. At the time I was still considered “completely disabled” so wsib really didnt need to be driving the employer crazy. albeit, wsib was probably confused, as the employer had continued to pay me, post injury (to avoid a claim?).
    i am in the middle of labour market reenrty
    i am one of those $12/hr people(under 40), which i think is an old cut off for post-secondary education, as minimum wage is mandated to increase to $10/hr in 2010.
    instead of acreditted training i was offered 6 months of graduated on job training with no guarentee at a job with a targetted projected income of minimum wage.
    at the end of the placement, i am told that i will lose my benefits and be expected to find work, with my physical limitations i fear for my financial survival, emotional welfare and physical well-being.

    i dont want sympathy.
    i want my experience to fascilitate change for others to follow.

    Benjamin Lloyd is correct

    THE ONLY WAY TO STOP THIS DEGREDATION OF THE INJURED WORKER IS TO STOP THE MONOPOLY OF WSIB,WCB AND GET A COMPETETIVE ALTERNATIVE FOR COMPENSATION INSURANCE FOR CANADIANS.

    maybe this alternative will pay current day rates for physiotherapy, massage and other pain management therapies, instead of sticking the remainder with the injured worker.

    maybe they would recognize alternative modalities that are recognized by other insurance companies, as they can actually help the injured worker to regain function, independance, decrease pain, etc

    maybe as an employer you wont feel like your employee is screwing you over
    by using the safety net that is established for their injury compensation

    maybe as an employee you wont get a copy of your compensation file and have to read the lies your employer wrote, (conflicting with medical opinions, test results) trying to deny you the support you need.

    maybe they wont over burden their adjudicators, so they remember who you are and can actually assess and accomodate your true needs and feel valuable themselves

    MAYBE THEY CAN HIRE INJURED WORKERS TO ADJUDICATE – THEY COULD GET ME FOR MINIMUM WAGE AND WSIB WILL TOP ME UP TO $12 – I AM IN THE MARKET FOR A JOB!

    I think as injured workers, we have gifts, that no one can take away. these include strength, perserverance, empathy, experience, honour.
    any anger needs to be correctly channeled to manifest change.

    WE NEED A POSITIVE MODE TO EMALGAMATE, EVALUATE AND EXECUTE IDEAS TO MAKE A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR THOSE WHO ARE DISABLED IN THE CANADIAN WORKPLACE AND THEIR FAMILIES.

    blessings,
    maybelle

  38. One might wonder why the employees of WCB would be so compliant with such a draconian system as sending injured workers to these schools to get them back to work and off the WCB payroll even when the injured worker is still unable to work. Why would someone treat their fellow humans this way? It would almost seem as if they were getting some type of performance bonus for shovelling injured workers back to work as soon as possible.

    Well, the fact is, THEY ARE!

    See the January 29 2008 Alberta Board of Directors meeting which outlines exactly that.
    http://www.ciws.ca/articles_alberta_wcb_performance_bonuses.htm

    The unsettling thing about this is that the WCB doesn’t even see this as corrupt.

  39. I have just learned, people speaking fluent english, are being sent for courses in english as a second language by some LMR providers. That’s as bad as the disabled worker who suffered a loss of fingers in a workplace accident being sent by his LMR provider to a typing course.

    I’ve also been told, LMR providers will provide certificates to a client with out the client attending the course, it all depends on the educational abilities of the client and the course always to remember the LMR provider still gets paid (Big Bucks), for this fraud.

  40. Jeff I just ran across your 08 Macleans’s piece and felt I had to comment. I am presently nearing completion of an LMR, that I fought tooth and nail to avoid, not because I feared the educational component but because I loved my job. The other reason is that, living in a fairly small community, and being past 50 years old I strongly suspect that I will have difficulty finding meaningful employment when I am finished school. I presently have 2 sons in post secondary education and a third will be going soon, in other words I need to earn a decent living. So my fear of the LMR is that LOE will be discontinued when I am finished the LMR and I will be left high and dry as an injured worker with few if any opportunites for employment. The LMR makes it to easy for employers and the WSIB to wash their hands of permanently disabled workers.

    Another point that bothers me considerably is that if our Human Rights code dictates that large employers MUST accommodate injured workers
    (unless they can prove financial hardship) why is the WSIB encouraging the LMR program, when it clearly can be interpreted as an infraction of Human rights? Rather than spending huge dollars on education for workers who would rather stay with a pre-injury employer, why not spend some dollars on educating/encouraging employers to accommodate the injured worker in a manner keeping with the Ontario/Canada Human rights Code?

    By over utilizing the LMR program the WSIB and the government are in fact encouraging continued infractions to the Human Rights code, and even worse they are continuing to get away with it.

    As part of one of my student placements I have been doing some research on the LMR program and I am in complete agreement with you that the WSIB is looking for the cheapest and quickest way to rid their files of injured workers, the LMR program seems to be working quite well with that goal in mind. One last comment and I’ll quit ranting. The 30 day limit that is allowed after completion of the LMR is ridiculous. This doesn’t change regardless of individual circumstances or the labour market. This 30 day rule doesn’t vary regardless of whether we are in an economic boom or recession.

    Thanks for helping to inform the public on the inadequacies of the LMR program, and thank you for allowing me to vent some of my own frustrations with the WSIB and the LMR program.

  41. Jeff, I have documents that were given to me by a graduate LMR student, that shows the WSIB paid $19638.00 to two LMR providers procured by the WSIB. The student received certificates for training in the identified field yet never attended a single course.

  42. I worked for 20years in one corporation and had serious accident- headinjury, psycholoical issues, ptsd, caper tunnel chronic headches, neck stiffness and wsib suggested lmr because my employer has not responded yet and my psychologist have restrictions on me never going back to my accident employer . Is lmr ok for me? am close to 49 and the union does not favour lmr.
    Am not feeling well at all- can not sleep, nighmares, severe headaches can not concentrate and easily forgets and lack of energy and taking antidepressant dugs for headahes and drugs and public anxiety

  43. This would be a good time to tell everyone that I am really not qualified to give legal advice (for one, I’m still a law student) and while the Internet is a great information-finding tool it should not be taken as a substitute for competent legal advice either. The stakes in Workplace Insurance are very high. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods, after all.

    As I’ve recommended to many people, the Office of the Worker Adviser exists to help injured workers (in Ontario) and can be contacted at 1-800-435-8980. Outside the province, consider searching for similar agencies. If you can’t find somewhere that does Workplace Safety specifically, try looking for a local legal aid clinic and asking either for help directly or for a referral to a specialty clinic. Of course you need to be financially disadvantaged for this, but the “nice” thing about this area of law is that qualifying for help is often quite easy.

    In a union environment, it’s true, you’ll be dealing with union representation. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t solicit a second independent opinion. If you want that, the steps to follow are still the same.

    I’ve received a lot of mail on this subject. Probably more than everything else I’ve ever written here combined. I’m glad this pops up so highly when people set out to find out more on the topic, but you still want to get professional advice. Much of what’s out there is free. Take advantage of it.

  44. I want to express my strongest protest against the way WSiB is
    handling my case.
    Agency established to assist General Public and protect / assist it
    in time of desperation /suffer and misfortune, become profit oriented
    identity placing well being of victims on back burner of its activity /
    objectives.
    Criminal Corporations have substantial influence over WSiB’s
    activities/processing of claims.
    WSiB acts from position of power (criminal immunity) and further
    victimizes already suffering people.
    Through out duration of processing it does infringe on criminal and
    sadistic tendencies.
    It is beyond comprehension, that individuals like me, with life
    threatening medical conditions (due to criminal negligence of employers)
    are deprived of/from urgent medical attention and financial support they
    deserve due to WSiB’s investigation of victim’s employment and medical
    records back to Stone Age (in chase for any and all excuses to limit
    victim’s entitlements).
    It is paradoxical, that diagnoses /conclusions are being made by some of WSiB’s personnel with out any medical / investigative knowledge
    /skills. Victim’s evidence submissions, Reports of WSiB’s qualified and professional investigators are not enough to adjudicate obvious cases.
    Such untimely manner of claims processing further deteriorates
    victim’s state of health.
    It is outrageous, that WSiB investigation focuses on victims instead of denouncing and panelizing Corporations which violated all regulations of the civilized society and compromised lives of many people.
    This is very serious systemic problem and needs to be addressed
    immediately.
    It is easy to be with out any compassion in cases involving other
    people, but in life any thing can happen to any one and corrupted,
    dysfunctional system may victimize the very people operating it (the
    system) at the very moment.
    It is important for WSiB to become protector of Constitutional,
    Labor and Civil Rights in Ontario (with in its mandate).
    I expect WSiB to be fully compliant / accountable with Code of
    Ethics, Justice and Moral Values and with out further delays adjudicate my
    Claim in to my benefit.
    During my awaiting for WSiB’s help I am being with out any
    medications, any food and being repossessed from every thing I worked for trough my 35 + years of hard work.

  45. WSiB “It’s a Ponzi scheme, only the people being added to the pyramid go in knowing that they are being cheated.”

  46. “To all injured workers:

    First of all the Meredith principle states that all moneys are to be paid out of the fund this includes the wages of the Board members and case workers adjudicators. Can you imagine our surprise? When we found out that the tax payer is really footing the bill this has been written in the Toronto star and several other publications and admitted to by a Toronto MP.

    This tells us that the Government has broken the Meredith agreement and they cannot claim to be arms length away from the Workers Compensation boards any longer because they are direct stakeholders in it and have been committing fraud against the very public that pays the bills in reality they have made the public stakeholders in these boards as well.

    Our relatives, the ones that are paying taxes are paying these caseworkers and adjudicators to torment and abuse injured workers.

    And the employers that are paying into the fund are really getting ripped off because they are paying the bill twice because they all pay personal income taxes plus business taxes and they have to pay into the fund in order to do business.

    But the real sad fact is we need to get our acts together and fight these people with every trick in the book. We have to sign petitions organize protest get t-shirts made up like Mike Beauchamp did dammed good idea. Whining and snivelling does no good I know your in pain and your life has been screwed up so has mine people have to get past the dark thoughts and focus on the light and that light is either reforming or destroying the WCB.

    I have a petition to get rid of the privative clauses out of the Workers’ Compensation Acts’. The section of the act called (Jurisdiction Of The Board) now you may think what good will that do but as it now stands even if you take your case to the Supreme the only thing they can do is send it back to the WCB to look at it again but if we get rid of this clause where they are protected by a Provincial Act of the legislature then we have a chance.

    I will be taking this petition not to the government because we know that they will ignore it but to the United Nations if we can embarrass these people on the world stage then maybe we will be able to force them to make a change.

    This is my petition link ”

    http://www.gopetition.com/online/29449.html

  47. I find that I am in the same position as the people in your article. I have felt that I am alone in the world, not knowing what I may be entitled to and what options I have and how do I get anything done with my future. WSIB has told me that I must follow their demands (the Physical limitations that they have set for me as well as the re-entry training they have decided I must follow or either be sued or taken from their books. I was a truck driver for many years and injured my shoulder. During the testing they demanded by my surgeon it was discovered that I have carpal tunnel in both arms as well as a torn shoulder. The WSIB decided that I would take customer relations training. When I asked the March of Dimes (March of Dimes handles the retraining) what this would train me for they said they did not know. I have had over 9 years of experience as a wholesale salesperson, and told them that if it was for becoming a retail salesperson, I was not interested. In my research I read in Macleans that retail sales is one vocation that will be hard hit over the next few years. Most retail sales people must also lift and carry product to restock Also my wholesale experience has showed me that I would not be suitable for retail sales. I am just over 60 years old and had planned on working in trucking till I could afford to retire. (If ever) I have training in large format digital imaging but require certification to work for printers and designers. I was turned down for this training by WSIB even though I was accepted by a community college. This would have enabled me to work and not go against the imposed limitations.
    If I could still drive truck, I would be working now. I have a great reputation and excellent driving record. I have sent resumes all over Ontario and Newfoundland. I think that even though I have not mentioned my age, it is not difficult to estimate my age through my driving experience. No one has ever answered my requests for employment even though my resume has been designed by “professionals”, trying to eliminate or down-play any information regarding my age. Like most Canadians, I am in a possition that will not enable me to retire. I plan on working another 10 to 20 years, but seem destined to be looking for employment until I die.

  48. I am young very young, started my career paid alot to get into what I do I am a Automotive Service Tech. Anyone says mechanic I will slap them silly, I spend 5 years donig schooling and a appretice program and 10’s of thousands on tools! Person stating a mechanic can’t work in a office and that they are greese monkeys I think you need to get with the time! 100 an hour for me to fix your car now ladie!

    Anyways 10 years experience in my field and boom one day pulling a wrench and my midcarpel gives way! Trust me first thing that hit my head was oh no my career is toast and guess what after 1.5 years of pain finally had surgery done, and sitting on the system going through therapy and must say seems like it didn’t really help so far! They where already talking about LMR to me and I have already contacted a lawyer! If i spend 40-50k in tools that are no good to me now and 30k on my schooling they will be matching that of what I paid for sure and will make sure I fight till the end!

    I refuse to go to a pcc school (I paid for my wife to go she got a job after lasted 3 months and she was fired to make room for new people from the same pcc) she hasn’t had a job since and its been over 5 years now. I had to teach her the actual real life outside of what a pcc taught her, and finally after 5 years and a conection I was able to get her a trial for a job, so far working out well I had to tell her to unlearn everything she learnt from a pcc my 25k wasted!

    I now have staples in my wrist to hold the midcarpel together and replace the soft tissue in the midcarpel that was damaged now I am healing still! I have crappy movement in my wrist and will never be able to be a mechanic again, I made damn good money as a mechanic, now the only training would be eaither college a community college or university. Or the other option my wife works like I did and I stay home with the kids, with 1 hand makes life a little hard.

    Am I depressed no I look at it as a new start to another life for me, I definitly wouldn’t want a pcc on my resume, I have done interviews with people and seen pcc on there resume, what I normally see is a job that use to be min wage and all of a sudden they are trained to be a mechanic in less than a year its impossible and I never bother hiring them. Now I am on the otherside of the desk now and a pcc on my resume would screw me over. Really I would rather not be retrained, I would rather have my injury reversed and go back to what I was doing before the injury.

    I guess the best advice would be to get in with a good lawyer and not a wsib lawyer neither! Know what you want and go for it even if its a settlement of a few mill you will definitly need a few mill to cover the damage it does.

    I hear more and more everyday about people not putting up with the bs of wsib and calling a lawyer and actually getting what they ask for. A good friend of mine was injured at a job, the employer tried to cover it up. His first call was to a lawyer before he got on wsib, and ended up suing the company for 1.5 mil and the judge deemed wsib had to pay the person the normal check till he turns age of 72. WSIB wanted to send him to a pcc, the person is disabled really bad and they wanted to retrain the guy comeon he is in a wheelchair now with some major issues. I think the last thing on the guys mind is work!

    As for me I just hope the best I bet I will have to have the surgery again! Not looking forward to that, plus other issues in my wrist need to be addressed a huge problem with a finger after surgery. So far I find them okay about the healing process and surgery and medication they cover etc, cept for I don’t like the idea they try and tell ME what school I go to, yes I am physically disabled, I don’t think I need to be reminded over and over again that I am. The law even states I have the right to pick what school I want to attend! I would rather go to a community school I am not jelous or worried what others think of my noticable 10″ scare or my disability I could careless what others think, being in a setting where the community is around is a better choice for me I don’t want to be shyed away from the community I have to learn to live with my disability weather i like it or hate it, being around a community I find helps my selfasteam. Eaither way I know I will get what I need to continue on with my life, is why I called a lawyer. Companies have insurance for a reason, usually carry 5mil and up depending for liability guess what you get hurt at work its a liability on there part weather they pay for wsib or not. And if a union tells you to stay away from a lmr program there is a reason, probably have more success not going through with it.

    I guess my advice to everyone would be contact a lawyer and have one ready just incase things turn sour, luckly I am a bad person for not spending money and save alot up because I have a house and kids and wife to look after and I go without alot of things in life so paying for a lawyer is nothing to me… I think unfortunitly I am one of a few who is in this situation who can actually afford a lawyer. Legal aid I wouldn’t even bother with because you dont’ pay them so they don’t work hard enough for you, after all you have to remember this is a life changing event and spending the money now will save the grief later on in life especially for me being in my late 20’s. Although like stated above there are alot of places to get free advice, I would probably use that to get started. Its to bad it took me to be injured to realize what i miss in life, and trust me its alot I miss out on now!

    I won’t post my name I bet wsib reads this, sorry call me the secret man with no knowledge lol

  49. I found this blog, when I typed “WSIB google group” into a google search.

    I feel a need to reply to this message:

    Comment by Peter Clare on 21 February 2009:
    I have just learned, people speaking fluent english, are being sent for courses in english as a second language by some LMR providers. That’s as bad as the disabled worker who suffered a loss of fingers in a workplace accident being sent by his LMR provider to a typing course.

    I have just found out (from OWA) that my LMR plan was for me to be trained as a medical receptionist. I was shocked. I do have an interest in all things medical, but that’s where that ends.
    In reality I was sent to Grade Expectations for 4 weeks to learn Job Search Skills Training.

    I started in the English as a 2nd Language classroom. I was born in this country to British parents, and didn’t need this course. After they realized this, I was set up in a private room, alone, with a laptop and told to Look for Work as a medical receptionist. I asked if I would be getting training in this, and they looked stumped.
    I thought I’d need Grade 12 and MS Office, and perhaps medical terminology classes.

    They did help me create a resume, cover letter and thank you letter. I was told that my final week, was meant for “Pounding the Pavement” and handing out this resume.

    My injury limits me to being on my left foot for less than 1 hour per day. I have an air cast and use a cane. I’m still being assessed by the WSIB Doctors at Toronto Western, and to this day, they have not decided if they will do surgery or not. I have 2 more appointments coming up for a nerve and pain clinic.

    I wasn’t too shocked about my treatment, when I saw one of the students in the class being taught typing skills after loosing 3 fingers from him left hand.

    I guess I’m not high on their priority list, as I’m 58 with a permanent left foot injury, and was earning minimum wage at a job I loved but can no longer do.

  50. Your article is a very interesting read. I was injured on the job, and have gone through the LMR program at a private college.Cascade Disability Services originally wanted me to go to Everestt which used to be CDI (it went bankrupt and Everestt bought them out). The estimated course was over $14,000. I had to fight to go to Medix which was about $11,000 and a shorter course. I wanted to go to Seneca which had the same course and only cost about $3000 total. It was insisted I go to the private college because they did not want to wait until September for me to start the course.

    Now my question is this, how common is it for Cascade Disability Services/WSIB to not pay for the course in full? I have completed and passed all the necessary courses and my Externship (placement). My Diploma is ready and waiting for me at the college. It cannot be released to me until they pay the remainder of the balance. To say I am not impressed is a gross understatement!

    Sincerely,

    Jen S.

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