BCGEU issues strike notice to LifeLabs amid wage issues

The strike follows months of failed negotiations

BCGEU issues strike notice to LifeLabs amid wage issues

The British Columbia General Employees' Union (BCGEU) has issued a strike notice to LifeLabs after months of negotiations with the company over wage increases. BCGEU represents about 1,550 workers at LifeLabs, the largest provider of medical laboratory services in BC, according to the CBC.

The union said the strike could begin as early as October 22 at 7:00 PM - 72 hours after they issued the warning on Tuesday.  According to BCGEU president Stephanie Smith, the workers want a fair contract that will secure their wages while working for the company.

"BCGEU members at LifeLabs had hoped to avoid a strike," said Smith in a statement released on Wednesday. "They want a fair contract so they can get back to work taking care of patients."

The strike comes after months of negotiations, 30 days at the bargaining table, and eight days of mediation, according to the company. BCGEU said in their statement that initial proposals from LifeLabs back in April wanted to take away sick benefits and vacation days.

"Poor wages and working conditions have created a staffing crisis at LifeLabs, forcing them to shut down facilities on Vancouver Island,” added Smith. “Members are fighting for a fair deal that will stabilise staffing and ensure better service for patients. The bottom line is LifeLabs is another privately-owned company trying to protect their profit margins at the expense of their workers.”

The 72-hour notice was released in order to give more time for LifeLabs and the union to settle on an agreement before the strike commences.

'Impasse' reached in bargaining

LifeLabs issued a statement responding to the strike notice from BCGEU, claiming that the union rejected its latest offer.

"We have delivered multiple, competitive offers to the BCGEU and reached agreement on several specific proposals – including key monetary proposals," said the company in a statement. "However, after the BCGEU rejected our latest offer, we agreed that we have reached an impasse in bargaining."

LifeLabs said most of their patient service centres will remain open and laboratories will continue operating as usual. Some patient service centres, however, will be closed on a "rotating basis" because of the job action.

The company said disruptions are expected starting on October 25. The added that patients with affected appointments will be notified by LifeLabs.

"We are committed to taking all steps possible to minimise disruption to patients and health care providers. We want to thank you for your patience at this time," the company said.

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