Last November – in cooperation with the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), the ULLICO Insurance Group and Sea Bright Insurance – the Midwest Regional Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund (MRLHSF) sponsored the Workers’ Compensation: Labor/Management Partnerships Conference in St. Louis.

The purpose of the conference was to clearly define the benefits of Negotiated Workers’ Compensation Programs (NWCPs) and to acknowledge four contractors who joined with LIUNA local unions in creating new NWCPs in the Midwest Region.

“All sides started with a win-win premise,” says LIUNA Vice President, Midwest Regional Manager and Assistant to the General President Edward M. Smith, opening the conference. “We negotiate on everything else. We should also negotiate workers’ compensation initiatives that operate within the framework of existing state law by complementing the established state program, not replacing it.”

Working in a joint venture known as WGA, two contractors – Alberici Constructors, Inc. and Washington Group International – helped establish a NWCP in Illinois and Kentucky at the Olmstead Dam Project.

Begun in 2004, the $600 million project will complete a dam across the Ohio River by 2012. Because the project involves two contractors, 11 local unions, six trades and two state jurisdictions, devising an appropriate NWCP was complex. Kentucky allows alternative dispute resolution (ADR) agreements, but Illinois does not. Employees live in both states and may work on both sides of the river. Yet, the companies needed one system, not two.

At the initiative of the Laborers and WGA, the Carpenters, Cement Masons, Iron Workers, Operating Engineers and Teamsters established a Labor-Management Committee that devised the NWCP. Under the agreement, the committee will hire an advocate, designate care facilities in both states, establish a joint safety committee, create a neutral physician panel, establish a progressive return-to-work and light-duty program and work with officials in Kentucky and Illinois to win support for the NWCP.

Another contractor, Clayco Inc., received an award for its participation in an employee-employer workers’ compensation partnership in Missouri. This is a first-of-its-kind agreement in that state.

Also receiving an award was E.T. Simonds Construction Company, the first company to join the Laborers in a NWCP. Recently, other trades have joined the agreement.

The four companies received plagues from Smith that read: “BE THE BRIDGE – Problems Become Opportunities When the Right People Join Together.”