Burbank City Council members took what they think will be the first step to maintain the city's existing level of fire service while saving money.
The council unanimously voted during a meeting on Tuesday to approve an alternative dispute resolution with the Burbank Fire Fighters' Assn. with the goal of significantly reducing the dispute process.
Betsy McClinton, the city's management services director, said the agreement will establish a list of 29 independent medical examiners approved by both the city and firefighters' association that the labor organization will use during a medical dispute when filing a workers' compensation claim.
An examiner from that list will be required to see that employee within 30 days of a request by city staff. The physician will then be required to prepare their report within 30 days of the appointment, McClinton said.
Under the city's current workers' compensation process with other labor groups, it could take up to two to three months for the city and labor group to select an agreed medical examiner or state-qualified medical examiner to resolve a medical dispute.
McClinton added that it could take additional months after finding an examiner to make an appointment and get the results.
"The dispute resolution is greatly delayed, and, therefore, treatment and return for the employee is also delayed, and that could result in a poor medical outcome for the employee," McClinton said.
Workers' compensation costs make up a large chunk of Burbank's overall payroll.
For example, workers' compensation for fire personnel for the current fiscal year is roughly 24% of the total payroll; about 18% of the total payroll goes to workers' compensation for police personnel; and approximately 13.5% is for public works and parks and recreation field employees, McClinton said.
According to an analysis conducted by Aon, Burbank's insurance broker, the city could have saved about $3.7 million across the 8,545 workers' compensation claims filed historically with the city if each claim was reduced by 30 days, McClinton added.