DETROIT (AP) _ A United Auto Workers union regional director has been indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud conspiracy charges in referring worker's compensation cases, the U.S. attorney said Thursday.

Frank Runnels, director of UAW Region 1-A in Taylor, allegedly received a $50,000 kickback in 1979 for agreeing to urge workers to use the law firm Peter Barbara and Associates for filing worker's compensation claims, according to the indictment announced by U.S. Attorney Roy C. Hayes.

Runnels, at the time president of UAW Local 22, beginning in 1979 allegedly collected $1,700 a month from attorney Arnold Shapiro, and in 1981 the payments were increased to $2,000 a month for Runnels to address UAW retiree meetings and continue recommending the law firm, the indictment asserted.

The payments continued through June 1983, the indictment said.

The indictment alleged Runnels agreed to use the Local 22 newspaper to recommend the law firm Bain and Shapiro for worker's compensation claims and to provide the firm with space at the local offices to answer employees' questions and file worker's compensation claims on behalf of interested employees.

The alleged scheme was intended ''to defraud the members of Local 22 ... of the right to have the business of Local 22 conducted honesty, fairly, impartially (and) free from corruption,'' the indictment said.

Runnels said the allegations were not ''in any way related to my tenure as regional director.''

Runnels said he was innocent. ''It should be noted that in all my years as a union official, no one has ever alleged I have misused a cent of union or members' money,'' he said in a statement.

''This case goes to the very fundamental rights of a union representative: Can he (or) she actively and aggressively, without being harassed with rumors, investigations, and indictments, encourage their members who have work-related injuries or diseases to file for workers' compensation,'' Runnels said.

The trial of another UAW official in Detroit, retired director Region 1-A director Robert ''Buddy'' Battle, began Tuesday in Detroit on federal charges alleging he embezzled $65,000 in union funds.