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WORKERS’ COMPENSATION VICTORY IN THE LEGISLATURE

On Tuesday, February 4, the Guam Legislature voted to improve Workers’ Compensation. For the first time in 30 years, payment rates will increase. The Bill, 200-35 (COR), proposed by Senator Regine Biscoe Lee, makes the following changes:

  1. Sets the minimum weekly compensation for permanent total disability as 66.75% of the local minimum wage times 20 hours.
  2. Bases all other minimum and maximum compensation amounts to reflect any per centum increases in the prevailing minimum wage.
  3. Authorizing more than just the Guam Memorial Hospital Emergency Room to see government employees who want to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission;
  4. Implementing a compromise effective date of 120 days after enactment of this law; and
  5. Further adjusting the maximum weekly compensation for disability from $520 to $1,011.

“This safety net is for the families of workers who are injured or die on the job, but for far too long, decades-old rates were paying for today’s costs,” Senator Lee said. “The reforms the Legislature passed today brings our island closer to restoring a promised lifeline, in a way that is as fair and just to all sides of Workers’ Compensation claims.”

Bill No. 201-35 (COR), to modernize the Workers’ Compensation Commission was also passed by the Senators. This measure:

  1. Imposes civil penalties, ranging between $250 to $25,000, for employers who violate the obligations required under Workers’ Compensation; and
  2. Deposits civil penalties into the Guam Workers’ Compensation Special Fund.
  3. Impanels more subject matter experts, which will result in a fairer arbitration process.
  4. Allows for remote attendance by Commission members via telephone or video conference preventing delayed hearings and the resulting increase in legal expenses.

The laws will go into effect 120 days after being enacted.

For more information, please contact the Office of Senator Régine Biscoe Lee at (671) 472-3455 or via email at senatorbiscoelee@guamlegislature.org.

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GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10

There will be a GFT General Membership Meeting on Monday, February 10, 2020 at the UOG-SBPA Building, Multipurpose Room #129 at 6:00 p.m. Members are highly encouraged to attend for updates on collective bargaining agreements, issues and concerns at the work sites, upcoming events, new benefits and other union news. Refreshments will be available.

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SBG SURVEY FOR TEACHERS PUSHED BACK

The survey for teachers on Standards-Based Grading (SBG) that GDOE and GFT have collaborated on will be implemented later this month or possibly by the Professional Development Day in March. The intent of the survey is to gauge the level of acceptance amongst teachers to help inform the Guam Education Board and GDOE Administrators in the planning of SBG.

GDOE Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Joe Sanchez, had the opportunity to gather feedback from the SBG team on the survey GFT recommended. However, additional time is needed for GDOE and GFT to meet and discuss a few changes. The survey will be ready for teachers later this month.

For more information on SBG, parents may contact their child’s school. For additional questions, comments or concerns, please email the project office at sbgi@gdoe.net or call the SBG Hotline at 300-1363.

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LEGISLATURE TO HOLD HEARING ON 180 INSTRUCTIONAL DAYS

The Legislative Committee on Education, Air Transportation, and Statistics, Research, and Planning will hold a Public Hearing on Thursday, February 6, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the Guam Congress Building on Bill 232-35 regarding the definition of the 180 Instructional days equivalent for Guam Public Schools and requiring the Superintendent of Education to develop a Standard Operating Procedure for arrangement of loss instructional time.

The committee will also hold a Roundtable Hearing on Bill 196-35 relative to authorizing GDOE to enter into power purchase agreements for solar energy.

Written testimonies may be delivered to the Office of Vice Speaker Nelson at 173 Aspinall Avenue, Suite 202A, Ada Plaza Center, Hagatna, Guam 96910 or submitted via email to senatortcnelson@guamlegislature.org.

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ALUTIIQ (DODEA Bus Operations) Announcements Customs & Quarantine Department of Corrections DPW (Bus Operations) GCC Support Staff GDOE Support Staff GDOE Teachers Guam Behavioral Health & Wellness Center Guam Fire Department Guam Memorial Hospital Authority Guam Police Department Guam Port Authority Guam Waterworks Authority Local News UOG Support Staff

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILLS STRENGTHENED: Bipartisan group supports first update to payment rates in 30 years

Several changes to legislation on Guam’s Workers’ Compensation law made in this session strengthen the first meaningful update to this important lifeline in 30 years.

“These updates to the Workers’ Compensation law mean we have bills that are better for the employees who deserve this safety net, stronger for the employers who provide this benefit, and are agreeable to a bipartisan majority of the legislature. I want to thank the stakeholders who offered these suggestions with good intentions, and my colleagues for considering them in good faith,” Senator Régine Biscoe Lee, the author of Bill No. 200-35 (COR) and Bill No. 201-35 (COR), said.

Changes to Bill No. 200-35 (COR), which seeks to update 30-year-old Workers’ Compensation rates, include:

1. Basing the minimum weekly compensation for disability to 66 and two-thirds percent of the prevailing minimum wage;
2. Basing all other minimum and maximum compensation amounts to reflect any per centum increases in the prevailing minimum wage;
3. Authorizing more than just the Guam Memorial Hospital Emergency Room to see government employees who want to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission;
4. Implementing a compromise effective date of 120 days after enactment of this law; and
5. Further adjusting the maximum weekly compensation for disability from $520 to $1,011.

“As policymakers, let’s not cheat people out of what is rightfully theirs. And if they are going to keep their livelihoods and not have their families or their lives crash because they are disabled and can’t work, let’s keep them whole,” Senator Mary Torres said during session Wednesday. “I want to be that honest, upright employer, and I pray to God that the rest of us do; so, let’s just do the right thing. This is a good bill, and I support it.”

Changes were also made to Bill No. 201-35 (COR), which updates and modernizes the process in which these claims are handled, challenged, and settled. These amendments include:

1. Imposing civil penalties, ranging between $250 to $25,000, for employers who violate the obligations required under Workers’ Compensation; and
2. Depositing civil penalties into the Guam Workers’ Compensation Special Fund.

“Every time a commission meeting is delayed by a month due to quorum issues, both sides of a Workers’ Comp. dispute have to shell out more money to keep their lawyer on the case. And that’s the fate of those fortunate enough to not run out of income in the meantime—how much worse for the employees and businesses who zero out their savings and checking accounts waiting for the government to do what’s right,” Senator Lee said.

Both Bill Nos. 200-35 (COR) and 201-35 (COR) are slated to be voted on before session adjourns.

For more information, please contact the Office of Senator Régine Biscoe Lee at (671) 472-3455 or via email at senatorbiscoelee@guamlegislature.org.