Sarah was hired as a production worker in a busy meat-packing plant in Calgary in August of 2008. “It’s a fast-paced environment, and it’s hard to keep up,” said Sarah. “I did my best to keep up.”Sarah arrived in Canada from Ghana during a cold winter in 1987. With limited English and less formal education, she raised her children while working in manufacturing and running her own business. With so much of her life focused on providing for others, it was all the more shocking when Sarah found herself unable to work due to a work-related injury.
With increasing production demands, Sarah juggled the hectic intensity of her work hours with time spent looking after her children at home. She punched in and punched out but felt fortunate for the chance to make a decent living.
In 2010, Sarah developed a small tear in her shoulder. She filed a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) and was sent to physiotherapy for a short period. Although she received modified work, her injury continued to worsen.
In constant pain, Sarah felt she had no choice but to work through it. She had a family to feed.
“I was aware of the union at the plant,” explains Sarah. “When things started to go wrong with my injury, my husband told me I had to go to them.”
Five years had gone by since her initial injury.
On November 25, 2015, Sarah suddenly collapsed at work. Her injury had progressed. The pain had finally gotten the best of her.
Sarah woke up in the hospital, disoriented and worried. She went through the paperwork and applied for WCB benefits. To her surprise, her claim was denied.
“I didn’t know anything. Everything was a mix-up,” explained Sarah, desperate to understand why WCB had denied her claim.
In conversation with her union shop steward, Sarah learned about the UFCW Local 401 WCB Advocacy Department. She decided to give her union a call.
“When Sarah contacted us, she was understandably upset,” said UFCW 401 WCB Advocate, Keri Grainger. “She is a courageous woman who has done and been through so much. For the system to not be there for her without a fight is a let-down. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.”
Sarah’s WCB Advocate worked tirelessly on her file. It was a complicated case that required extensive knowledge of how the WCB system works. Fortunately for UFCW Local 401 members, WCB Advocacy Department are experts in what they do.
Thanks to the efforts of the WCB Advocacy Department, WCB overturned their denial of Sarah’s claim in July of 2017. Sarah was paid retroactive wage replacement benefits and had surgery to help improve her condition. Unable to return to her former position, Sarah is also receiving English and upgrading to assist her in finding re-employment.
Asked how she felt when she was told that her union had won her case and that her claim had been accepted, Sarah exclaimed, “I bent down on my knees, and I prayed! I praised God, and I praised you for your help. Relief!”
While Sarah still struggles with her injury, she continues her recovery from surgery and is now getting the support she needs. A constant in her situation is support from her union.
“They were my voice,” she said. “The job they did for me… I don’t know what to say. Without them, I’m lost.”
Her advice to other UFCW members who have been injured at work? “Ask for help, see a doctor, don’t over-do it, and don’t be afraid. The union can help.”
If you need WCB assistance or advice, please call your UFCW 401 WCB Advocate @ 1.800.252-7975
Posted on: September 23,2018