Local Press Releases

Questions about double-hatter compensation still remain unanswered

March 12, 2014

KITCHENER – The response given by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to concerns about compensation for double-hatter firefighters in Waterloo Region has led to a number of questions that still remain unanswered, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said today.

“Last week, I hosted a roundtable discussion at the Wellesley Fire Department to help bring clarity to the issue of firefighter compensation in Waterloo Region and across Ontario,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, no representatives from the WSIB participated in the discussion and the information the board provided to local officials, firefighters and members of the media failed to provide clarity on how the board determines liability for presumptive-cancer claims made by double-hatters.”

Several double-hatters in the region became concerned about losing their benefits after the Waterloo fire association warned them that the precedent set by a recent WSIB decision could lead to a major shortfall in compensation if they develop cancer while working full-time for one municipality and serving as a volunteer in another.

To determine liability in this case, the WSIB used Section 94 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, which states the “employer who last employed the worker in the employment in which the disease occurs is the worker’s employer for the purposes of the insurance plan.” In other words, according to this section, the last employer is responsible for an insurance claim.

“The use of this guideline obviously created concerns for double-hatters who work in a city, like Waterloo, one day and in a local township the next,” Harris said. “The trouble is this section of the law doesn’t actually apply to double-hatters. It applies to employees who have switched jobs. So even if the WSIB chooses to use this section on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, it still creates a great deal of uncertainly for double-hatters throughout the province.”

In another development, the WSIB’s response to the media last week stated that “WSIB benefits” would remain the same whether Waterloo or Wilmot, Wellesley or Woolwich paid out a presumptive-cancer claim because they have all selected the “maximum coverage.” This answer still does not clarify what would happen to a presumptive-cancer claim made by a firefighter volunteering in a community that hasn’t selected the maximum coverage. Nor does it explain what would happen to additional benefit packages.

In the case of the City of Waterloo, city officials have recently stated that the benefits package it provides to its employees would remain in place for a double-hatter even if one of the townships was liable for a presumptive-cancer claim.

“If this is the case, the question becomes: Why would the Waterloo fire association tell its members that by volunteering they would be risking a ‘severe cut in their salary and benefits,’ ” Harris said. “At the end of the day, two Wellesley double-hatters quit over the claims made by the local fire association and the confusion created by the WSIB.”