For Release — Tuesday, March 10, 1998
WALSH TESTIFIES BEFORE
SENATE LABOR COMMITTEE
ON THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY'S LABOR PRIORITIES
ALBANY -- New York should revamp its unemployment insurance (UI) taxes and qualifying standards to make the system fairer to both employers and workers, Daniel B. Walsh, President of The Business Council, told the state Senate today.
In testimony this morning before the Senate Labor Committee, Walsh outlined the business community's labor-related priorities in UI reform, workers' compensation reform (WC), and workforce development.
Unemployment insurance: Walsh said New York's current UI taxes are unbalanced, placing a relatively higher burden on companies with relatively few layoffs and a relatively smaller burden on companies with less stable employment records. The tables should be revised to make them more fairly reflect employer experience, he said.
Walsh also urged lawmakers to revise the state's antiquated standards for disqualification and requalification -- the processes by which workers lose and then regain eligibility, respectively.
"The Business Council wants a UI system that taxes employers fairly, that provides appropriate benefits to hard working New Yorkers who are temporarily out of work, and that screens applicants to ensure that only appropriately qualified workers receive the system's benefits," Walsh said.
"By ensuring fair UI taxation and a thorough screening of applicants, we can both decrease New York's long average benefit period of 18.3 weeks and ensure that this system continues to benefit the workers it was intended to protect," he said.
To requalify, a disqualified employee now must work only five weeks and earn only five times the dollars he or she would receive in the benefit period. This should be increased to 10 weeks and 10 times the benefit earned, Walsh said.
In addition, all employers who can be charged for benefits should be able to bring disqualifying information, such as evidence of termination for cause. Only the most recent employer can do so, and some employers whose accounts will be charged for benefits are unfairly prevented from introducing potentially disqualifying information.
Workers' compensation: Walsh urged lawmakers to enact a number of specific reforms to the state's workers' compensation system:
- Create medical guidelines. New York is one of the few states that does not use objective medical guidelines to determine the extent of disability in WC cases. Instead, individual doctors make this determination, subjectively and separately. The Business Council supports the adoption of objective guidelines.
- Cap benefits in permanent partial cases. Virtually all states limit the duration of benefits to permanently partially disabled workers. New York has no such limit. The Business Council proposes a limit of 700 weeks, which is more than 12 years.
- Reject proposals to base WC premiums on hours worked. Premiums at present are based on payroll, which is the most accurate reflection of actual costs since WC benefits are wage replacements. Proposals to based premiums on hours worked in the construction industry would undermine this relationship between premiums and benefits.
- Create a safety incentive credit program. Such a program would reward -- and encourage -- employers that make investments that improve workplace safety.
Workforce development: Walsh noted widespread worker shortages in every business sector, especially software-related fields. He urged lawmakers to:
- Streamline job training programs for the unemployed and dislocated workers.
- Provide support for more industry-based employee skills upgrade training.
- Create a comprehensive workforce development system to link all these components together in a complementary system.
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