When you get labor and management together to bargain about issues that affect workers, there are bound to be fears that one side or the other is giving away the ranch.
Such was the case this week during the Workmen's Compensation Advisory Council meeting, when the only accomplishment was the appointment of a task force to examine the pros and cons of the existing rehabilitation program in Utah and determine if it is adequate.And even the appointment of certain advisory council members brought some complaints from Larry Bunkall, Utah Manufacturers Association executive director, and Keith Nielsen, president of the Utah Self-Insurers Association.
Both claimed the task force was devoid of management representation. Stephen M. Hadley, council chairman and also chairman of the State Industrial Commission, attempted to alleviate their qualms by saying that any report the task force prepares will be brought to the advisory council for a careful examination.
Hadley said studying the rehabilitiation program in Utah is designed to make it the least costly to employers at the same time the workmen's compensation payments are quickly paid to the injured worker.
Ed Mayne, president of the Utah AFL-CIO, said the issue of rehabilitation of injured workers has persisted for many years and he hoped the advisory council would come up with some recommendations quickly.
A good portion of the meeting was spent talking about how the council and the Employment Security Advisory Council will proceed in relation to taking votes or just obtaining a consensus on how council members feel about a subject.
The issue was raised by Bunkall, who is a member of both councils. He pointed to Wednesday's Employment Security Advisory Council meeting as an example of several items being discussed and Industrial Commissioner John Florez obtaining only a nod from the members on how they felt.
Bunkall wanted to know if the council will vote on some issues; will the council send finished bills to the Legislature or will the members only nod their heads. "Are we simply giving advice that might be ignored?" he asked.
Florez said he was attempting to keep the meetings informal and obtain the feelings of council members. Hadley said Bunkall and any other person could visit the Legislature and voice opinions on proposed legislation that might be suggested by either council.
Hadley said the Legislature usually functions by looking at bills approved by various councils and committees, but he considers it his responsibility to clarify any disagreements over legislation considered by the advisory councils to legislators.
The commission made a proposal to establish the Division of Vocational Rehabiliation at the lead agency responsibile for returning injured workers to the work force. To accomplish that, the commission will allocate $450,000 from the Employer's Reinsurance Fund that can be used to match federal funds for a $1.8 million expenditure for training, job development and job restructuring, but not for evaluation.