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Injured workers group in works for Grey-Bruce

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An upcoming meeting is planned to form a group aimed at providing peer support, education and advice to injured workers in Grey-Bruce.
The community meeting for injured workers, their families and anyone else who is interested is scheduled for Thursday at the OPSEU member centre in Owen Sound.
“We all think that the safety net is there and it is going to work,” said Jo-Anne Hearns, who was injured on the job herself and is the main organizer of Thursday’s meeting. “When we get hurt at work we kind of fit into two categories. One is the category where the safety net does work, and then there is the category where the safety net doesn’t work, which generally leads us on a downward spiral mentally, physically, emotionally and leaves us trying to fight for our rights.”
Thursdays meeting will include a number of areas of discussion. Injured worker Margery Wardle, of Ottawa, will talk about taking the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to court over mental illness, while there will be a founding member of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups talking about the organization’s role and the advocacy it does. There will be a peer support session asking injured workers what assistance they need, while case managers will be available for people who want to speak with an expert about their situation.
The meeting will also provide information about the services that are available in the community.
“I believe there will be a number of services in the community we will be able to access and bring to the table as part of our support,” said Hearns.
The hope is to gather enough interest to set up a Grey-Bruce group of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, which has groups across the province, providing supports to injured workers.
Hearns said she became involved in the injured workers network after having been injured herself and she has learned a lot about her rights and the help that is available.
“Whether it is working or volunteering or just adding value to our lives or having friendships,” said Hearns. “There is a whole education process and sometimes people need help with just filing. Sometimes we just want someone to listen to our story.”
Hearns was working on an assembly line when in 2007 she started to have concerns about her arms. It was on a Friday in 2008 when she just couldn’t finish a shift because of the pain. Eventually she was diagnosed with four areas in her arms where she had developed tendonitis from repetitive strain.
Hearn said she was told by WSIB to not go back to work, and after a year had passed it was decided she would be retrained. She was given just two weeks to decide what direction she wanted to go in and then 12 weeks to find a job after she was retrained in social work.
“For me I had to start over,” said Hearns. “Some of us are more fortunate to have the support systems or have something that just goes the right way that helps us put our feet forward, while some of us are not able to at all, and it has got nothing to do with an attitude.”
She said she is glad to be back into the workforce, though she doesn’t work full time anymore.
She said for workers who have been injured it is not easy to go back to work. Businesses have a fear of hiring an injured worker because of the potential for added costs. Quite often injured workers are towards the end of their working years, and then there is the question if the worker is able to even work a full work week.
“It is very difficult to start over and get out and find work, even if you are one of the fortunate ones who actually has the ability to function,” said Hearn. “There are a lot of shortcomings in the system.”
Thursday’s community meeting will begin at 12:30 p.m. in Suite 101 of the BDO Building at 1717 2nd Ave. E. For information or to register contact gbinjuredworkers@gmail.com

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