Monday, May 10, 2004

Asbestos Compensation Bill Crashes, Burns

Asbestos compensation legislation seems to be dead for this year, although Republican Senate Leader Bill Frist and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said they would keep working on it.

Last month both sides invited federal appeals judge Edward Becker, to mediate talks between asbestos companies, insurers and labor to help find package that all sides -- labor, business and insurance -- could agree on. Those talks broke down last Thursday.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney stated
The AFL-CIO is deeply disappointed that after more than a year of intensive efforts we have been unable to reach an agreement with asbestos defendants and insurers on legislation to establish a no-fault National Trust Fund to compensate victims of asbestos disease. Throughout this process we have made our position clear that legislation had to provide victims fair compensation and be adequately funded.

Unfortunately, the level of funding which business and insurers were willing to support was inadequate to fund fair compensation values for victims. Moreover, given the current and future extent of the asbestos disease crisis and likely claims, , we believe the fund could face financial insolvency and collapse within a few years at the levels of funding proposed by business. Such a result is clearly in no one’s interest.
There were several outstanding issues:
Sources said last week that business groups during the talks proposed an asbestos compensation fund of $116 billion, plus an additional $12 billion contingency fund in case the money ran out.

Labor officials, meanwhile, were urging a larger fund of $134 billion, plus a $15 billion contingency, said the sources, who were familiar with the discussions, but asked not to be named.