Jamaican farm worker wins compensation case

Michael Campbell

A Jamaican farm worker who suffered an on-the-job injury nine years ago in Canada was handed a major victory by  the Workplace  Safety and Insurance  Tribunal which ruled that a policy that cuts benefits to injured migrant farm workers was illegal.

In the landmark decision, which was handed down last week, the tribunal ordered the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to compensate Michael Campbell based on the type of job that is available to him in Jamaica, and not on a job that is unavailable to him in Ontario.

According to the tribunal, the cuts to Campbell’s loss-of-earning entitlement are an “abrogation” of the WSIB’s legal obligations.

A news release from Campbell’s attorney, Maryth Yachnin of IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, and Chris Ramsaroop, organiser at Justicia for Migrant Workers,  noted that after Campbell injured his back in 2008 in an accident on a peach farm, he had to return to Jamaica.

“His injury has caused him to lose his livelihood and his ability to work in Ontario. He and his family fell into poverty,” it said.

The advocates explained that, as a migrant worker, Campbell was tied to one employer, did not have any form of labour or social mobility, and did not have permanent  resident status in Canada.

However, after he was injured, the WSIB determined that he was not entitled to loss-of-earnings benefit. The board subsequently decided that he could find a job as a cashier in Ontario, even though he was not academically qualified for that type of job, and his injury prevents him from returning to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme.

The WSIB’s decision in Michael’s case was based on its policy to end migrant workers’ compensation as if they can live and work in Ontario, even though they cannot,” Campbell’s representatives said in the news release. “The WSIB tells migrant workers, like Michael, that they can do at least a minimum wage job in Ontario and cuts their compensation as if they were doing that job, even though that work is not available to them.

“Michael didn’t think this policy was fair. He fought for nine years to bring his case to the tribunal. Last week the tribunal agreed with him and said that the WSIB’s policy was not fair and not legal,” the advocates added.

“What the WSIB does is unfair. WSIB needs to change its policy now so no one else has to go through what I went through,” Campbell  is quoted as saying in the news release.

Ramsaroop noted that “countless injured migrant farm workers and their families have become impoverished and destitute from this WSIB policy.”