Sheet Metal Contractors, Workers Urge Added Reductions in Calif. Workers’ Comp Premiums

December 18, 2003

The Bay Area Chapter of the Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) Local 104 are jointly urging California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to make additional reductions in workers’ compensation premiums, which have tripled in the last three years.

The SMACNA/SMWIA partnership has a reported longstanding tradition of establishing high safety and training standards that result in safer, more cost-effective commercial, industrial and residential construction. The partnership asserts that while union contractors struggle to pay skyrocketing workers’ comp premiums that threaten companies’ survival and their employees’ jobs, construction projects will fall to unskilled, non-union laborers willing to work for less, resulting in more on-the-job accidents and inferior construction.

The current workers’ comp crisis is reported to be taking its toll on all California businesses, which have seen workers’ comp insurance costs rise from $9 to $29 million since 2000, a 322-percent increase. The system, which was originally designed to protect the health and income of workers injured on the job and limit employer liability for lawsuits, is reportedly cutting into employers’ bottom lines and encouraging some to leave the state or lay off workers. While recent reform legislation has reduced premiums by an average of 3.6 percent, including a 2.9 percent reduction by the State Compensation Insurance Fund, the SMACNA/SMWIA partnership is urging Schwarzenegger to take swift action for further reductions.

“Union contractors who maintain higher employment and safety standards are being squeezed out of business by rising workers’ compensation insurance costs,” said Garland Self, president of the Bay Area SMACNA Chapter. “The SMACNA/SMWIA partnership has worked hard to establish and maintain labor and safety standards that reduce job-related accidents and lower disability claims. Companies shouldn’t have to pay what amounts to a penalty tax for maintaining higher labor standards, which is why we are appealing to Sacramento.”

“Safety and workers’ compensation costs go hand in hand,” added Joe Maraccini, financial secretary and treasurer of SMWIA Local 104. “The SMACNA/SMWIA partnership is doing its part to ensure that it meets and exceeds Cal-OSHA safety standards through extensive employee training, which reduces compensation claims. The governor needs to do his part by ensuring that premiums are lowered so union shops that maintain higher standards can compete cost-effectively rather than allowing sub-standard contractors to co-opt the system.”

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