Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Ann Fudge Schormans


Chris Sinding



Committee Member

Jane Aronson



Annually, thousands of immigrant women employed in precarious low-paying jobs become more marginalized after experiencing work-related injuries because they cannot obtain just compensation from Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). In 1913 Sir William Meredith attempted to establish an equitable compensation system. Over the decades, and especially in the past 25 years, the influence of neoliberal forces has continued to create a system that resembles a market-based insurance model.

Using an institutional ethnographic approach, this research explicates how the policies of the WSIB are implicated in ruling relations. Four immigrant women who had experienced work-related injuries were interviewed. Their experiences of the problematic were mapped to the texts: the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, the New Experimental Experience Rating and Merit Adjusted Premium Programs, and WSIB’s Forms 6, 7 and 8.

The findings indicate that (a) work-related injuries have resulted in the immense social, emotional, moral, financial, and physical degradation of the participants; (b) an important relationship exists between the contents of the texts and the adverse experiences of the participants; (c) the texts influenced the ways that employers, WSIB service and health care providers, and legal professionals responded to the participants; and (d) the texts influenced the women’s experiences of the system and directed the actions that they had to take in very specific ways.

This study examined the experiences of this group of women about whose experiences of the system little is known. Although the information that they provided was strong and supported what is already known about how other groups of injured workers experience the system, the small sample size suggests that additional research with a larger sample size is warranted. Because the women’s employers were not interviewed, research on the influence of these texts on the experiences and actions of all stakeholders would add to our knowledge.

McMaster University Library

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