A delegation of General Electric-Canada Peterborough retirees and Unifor representatives had a productive meeting today with Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn to discuss compensation for workers exposed to hazardous material.
“We had a good meeting, which would not have happened without the hard work of these retirees,” said Joel Carr, Unifor National Representative.
The Unifor Local 524 retiree chapter delegation was led by Sue James. Also present were researchers Bob and Dale DeMatteo, who investigated hazardous materials at the plant.
Carr said three points stood out from the meeting.
The minister said individual compensation claims would begin to be processed “within months, if not weeks.” Another meeting with the minister is planned for three months from now to assess progress.
Carr said Flynne is also working on establishing a GE-approach to streamlining the burden of proof for claimants from the plant, making the process faster and simpler.
Beyond that, Carr said the minister committed to a longer term look at systemic issues at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the burden of proof when filing claims.
Getting to this point has taken years of dedication by the workers and retirees at the plant, their spouses and their union, Carr said.
After learning that many of the workers were denied compensation through the WSIB claims process Unifor reached out to current and former members who have or were considering an occupational disease claim and to those who were previously rejected.
A subsequent report authored by two experienced occupational health researchers working with GE workers, revealed that workers were exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals, including at least 40 known or suspected human carcinogens at the GE Peterborough plant.
As a result of this report and the union’s intervention three claim files by Unifor members are in active reconsideration at this time with more anticipated.
Also attending the meeting were Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal and Bill Roy from the ministry’s prevention office.