NU Online News Service, May 23, 3:17 p.m. EDT–The head of the Workers Compensation Research Institute said he was surprised by an AFL-CIO attack on the organization’s focus because he had recently asked for union input on study topics.

“I’m perplexed,” said Richard Victor, executive director of the 22-year-old Cambridge, Mass.-based group.

Mr. Victor commented after Robert E. McGarrah Jr., AFL-CIO coordinator for workers’ compensation, released a critical letter Thursday addressed to Mr. Victor, which said the nationally-recognized group, that studies comp system workings, rather than being independent, is a tool of the insurance industry.

An e-mail copy of the letter was forwarded by National Underwriter to WCRI, but the research group leader said he still had not received a hard copy of the and the timing of the correspondence perplexed him because he had asked one of the four union leaders who signed it “to send a list of research ideas to conduct studies from.”

He said he had passed the list on to Mr. McGarrah, “and was awaiting his reactions, the goal of which is to get his input and do valuable research. I hope this letter was not intended to end those discussions.”

Mr. McGarrah had written, in part, that in its entire history WCRI has not “produced a single study on the effect and practices of the insurance industry in pricing and administering the workers’ compensation system.”

The letter said the peer review process of research was “not only flawed, but also fails to meet even the most rudimentary standards of scholarly research.”

Mr. Victor said he was proud of the group’s quality, rigor and transparency of the group’s research and that it is the only organization that studies the states’ comp systems on both cost to employers and workers outcomes, “which makes us pretty balanced.”

He said the group besides some state labor groups has a diverse membership that includes employers, state governments and insurers.

Mr. Victor said he found it perplexing that worker advocates “don’t value the focus that WCRI has on how workers fare in the [comp] system.”

He added that he felt, “pretty comfortable about the fairness, integrity and quality of what we do.”