INFORMATION FOR UNION MEMBERS
Like the health, welfare, and pension plans Wilson-McShane administers, the Union Construction Workers' Compensation Program is directed by a Board of Trustees appointed by contractors and participating trade unions. You are covered under this program if both your employer and your union have chosen to join the program. If you have any questions about workers' compensation or the program, feel free to contact a program representative.
The program is designed to provide you with high-quality medical care and all the benefits you are entitled to under Minnesota law -- on time and without hassles or litigation.
If, at any time, you do not feel comfortable about how your claim is handled, either by the adjuster or your doctor, or you have unanswered questions, simply call the program's facilitator. The facilitator will attempt to resolve any problems within 10 working days.
How to Contact the Dispute Resolution Facilitator
Direct: (952) 851-3501
Fax: (952) 851-3566
How The Program Works
In 1995, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that allows unions and signatory employers to create their own method of administering workers' compensation benefits. A Board of Trustees was created in 1996 with balanced representation of union leaders and contractors. The Trustees asked Wilson-McShane Corporation to administer an alternative program to fit the needs of the construction industry. The Trustees approve the rules, procedures, physicians and others who make up the Union Construction Workers' Compensation Program.
The Board of Trustees created safety standards for contractors who enroll in this program in order to prevent injuries. Contractors are provided safety services when they are accepted into the program. To find out if your contractor participates in the Program, go to the bottom of this page and click on "Who's on Board".
Minnesota law requires that you report on-the-job injuries and diseases to your employer immediately. Your employer is required to call its insurance company as soon as possible to ensure you receive proper medical care.
The Claims Adjuster
After you report your injury or illness, a claims adjuster may contact you several times to obtain information. The adjuster is supposed to provide you all the benefits you are entitled to under the law. If you have any questions about those benefits, such as your wages and compensation, call the claims adjuster. If you are not satisfied with the adjuster’s response, call the facilitator.
The Dispute Resolution Facilitator
The facilitator’s job does not include giving legal advice or telling you what to do. The facilitator can listen to your concerns and try to fix them to your satisfaction. Most problems can be resolved this way – quickly and effectively. If the problem cannot be resolved over the telephone, a facilitation meeting may be held, at which time all parties to the claim, including any attorneys, are invited to attend. If the facilitation does not resolve the dispute, a decision may be issued within 10 days.
If the facilitator does not resolve your problem to your satisfaction, you can request mediation. The mediator will meet with you, your employer, the insurer and any attorneys, and again attempt to resolve matters to your satisfaction. The mediator cannot force you to accept any recommendations, and must make sure any settlement is fair and reasonable. The mediation step must be completed within 21 days from the request for mediation.
If mediation is not successful, you can request arbitration. Your dispute will be referred to an arbitrator to hear the case and reach a decision. You are encouraged to have representation by an attorney at arbitration. A hearing will be held so that you can present evidence regarding your claim. Arbitration will be completed as early as possible, with a binding decision issued within 10 days.
The Board of Trustees has selected highly qualified attorneys who know workers’ compensation law to serve as mediators and arbitrators. The facilitator, mediators, and arbitrators are provided at no cost to you. If you feel that you need your own attorney, you are free to hire one at any time. However, to keep communication flowing as quickly as possible, the facilitator may contact you, your employer, and the insurance company directly. If you wish to do so, you may have an attorney represent you at any stage of the dispute resolution process. If you do hire an attorney, the attorney’s fees will be paid as provided under Minnesota law – generally as a portion of the benefits you are awarded.
The medical care you receive is also provided at no cost to you. You are entitled to reasonable and necessary medical treatment to cure or relieve the effects of the work injury. This includes related expenses, such as travel and medications. If you have any questions or concerns about your medical care, or wish to change physicians, call the claims adjuster.
In this program, medical care is provided by a select group of some of the finest physicians in Minnesota, our Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO). Under certain circumstances, workers who are injured while covered by this program may opt out of the EPO and get their medical care from other health care providers. For example, an injured worker who lives and works beyond reasonable driving distance to an EPO doctor may select a non-EPO doctor. For more details, check out the program rules and regulations by clicking the "documents" button above.
In addition, the Board of Trustees created a panel of neutral, credentialed examiners to provide second opinions. If there is a problem with your treatment or your doctor’s recommendations, either you or the claims adjuster may request a second opinion by contacting the facilitator.
The Board of Trustees also created a panel of neutral rehabilitation counselors, also known as Qualified Rehabilitation Consultants (QRCs), who understand the demands of the construction industry. If you are unable to return to your trade, these counselors will help you find a different job that you can physically tolerate, at the highest wage possible.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE PROGRAM
What's the purpose of this program?
The mission of the Union Construction Workers' Compensation Program is to reduce work injuries and improve the quality and delivery of workers’ compensation benefits to injured union members.
How did the program get started?
Through the 1970s and '80s, labor and management were unable locally or nationally to reform the workers’ compensation system, resulting in many years of conflict and rising costs. In 1995, following a model used in several other states, Minnesota created an alternative workers’ compensation benefits administration system. The Union Construction Workers’ Compensation Program was formed in 1997, to include as members unions and their signatory employers, with the support of their workers’ compensation insurance companies.
Twenty-two trade unions (43 locals) participate in the program in Minnesota, together with many of their signatory contractors, representing over $700 million in annual payroll of union employees. The program is supported financially by employers, who pay an annual fee based on the size of their payroll. Participation in the Union Construction Workers’ Compensation Program requires the approval of three parties: the employer, its insurance company and its unions. Local unions can join the program, and its members participate if their employers choose to enroll. In other words, any participating union will have some members covered by the program and some who are not.
Who is in charge of the program, workers or management?
The program’s board of trustees, which is made up of equal representation from participating unions and contractors, handles all governance decisions. Wilson- McShane Corporation is the program’s administrator.
How has the program improved the workers’ compensation system?
We have quantified the improvements in a number of ways:
• Reduced incidence of injuries among participants.
• Employees get faster resolution of disputed claims.
• Significantly fewer claim disputes proceed to arbitration.
• Employees return to work more quickly, with full wages and benefits.
How does this program reduce injuries?
The program’s trustees have established safety criteria for any employer that participates in the program. We have a safety officer under contract who regularly assists participating contractors work safe.
If the program’s system returns union members to work sooner, doesn’t that mean their workers’ comp benefits will be smaller?
No. Minnesota law requires that this program pay the same benefit levels as the statutory system. In most cases, however, your workers’ comp claim will be resolved sooner, and with a successful return-to-work, which we view as a preferable outcome. Out of work employees receive disability payments, but do not earn social security credits or other fringe benefits that are part of their collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, many research studies demonstrate that the injured person is always better off by returning to work early as long as the work duties are physically appropriate and any discomfort is monitored closely.
Does this program allow union members to hire a lawyer?
Yes. All program participants have the right to hire an attorney. If there is a dispute, we hold an initial facilitation session with all parties, after which the dispute resolution facilitator may issue a ruling if the dispute isn’t resolved by agreement. More than 90% of disputes are resolved at this stage. Unresolved disputes move on to mediation or arbitration. Attorneys may participate in facilitation, mediation, and arbitration sessions.
Can a union member choose the doctor who treats the work injury?
Yes, but there are certain limits. A union member may select any doctor from the UCWCP Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO). The EPO is a select list of doctors known both for their ability to heal work injuries and their communication skills. Injured workers typically begin treating with an occupational medicine specialist. However, all specialties are available, including chiropractic.
In addition, the trustees have formed a separate panel of neutral examiners to provide objective opinions on issues of dispute, and we may request an examination by one of them for the purpose of resolving an issue. These examiners only offer opinions about medical issues. You won't be asked to treat with one of the neutral examiners.
Can an injured worker still choose the Minnesota court system to resolve my disputes?
No. If the union and the employer participate in the program, then the union member must utilize the program’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system.
If an injured worker is entitled to benefits, does the worker receive them more quickly? Can an injured worker be starved out?
In most disputed claims that we facilitate, payments begin more quickly. Here’s why: In the traditional system, medical and wage-replacement benefits can be withheld for months (18 to 24 months!) while the claim is proceeding to a hearing before a judge. In our system, an initial facilitation session may be held in as little as a month after the injury. Even if the denial of benefits is upheld at facilitation, the parties may proceed directly to arbitration, often obtaining final resolution of the benefit dispute in four months. This process eliminates “starving out.”
If an injury keeps a union member from practicing his or her trade, what happens next?
Our system is more likely to identify a modified job condition that will enable an employee to earn their regular pay and benefits more quickly. The trustees of the program created a panel of neutral rehabilitation counselors who understand the rigorous demands of the construction industry. They work with injured workers and their employers to help find jobs that can be physically tolerated at the highest wages possible.
How do I know a settlement will be fair?
The program’s board of trustees reviewed the credentials of all mediators that we use. The mediators’ settlements must meet the same standards required by Minnesota’s workers’ compensation law: they must be fair, reasonable, and in compliance with the law.
PARTICIPATING CONTACTORS, UNIONS AND INSURERS
For a current list of all participating contractors, unions and insurance providers click on the "Documents" tab at the top of this page. Near the top of the page you can access the list by clicking on the document entitled, "Who's on Board". You can also get there by using this link:
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