LifeLabs in B.C. facing possible strike action
The B.C. Government Service Employees' Union, which represents some of LifeLabs' front-line workers, has served strike notice. Job action could begin as early as Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.
Job action could begin as early as Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.
“It is possible that appointments that were made previously could not be honoured if those sites are behind picket lines,” explained BCGEU president Stephanie Smith on Wednesday
“So there are some non-unionized LifeLabs. Those of course will remain open during the job action. As well, we have negotiated essential service levels with the employer,” she explained.
LifeLabs said it’s doing all it can to minimize disruptions and that job action won’t start until after the weekend.
“Most LifeLabs patient service centres will remain open. However, some patient service centres will be closed on a rotating basis as a result of the job action starting on Monday,” reads a statement from the company.
“Patients with appointments that need to be rescheduled will be notified directly by LifeLabs.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said his ministry is preparing "to ensure that patients are protected" and is "very hopeful the collective bargaining process will lead to an agreement."
The union said one of the main issues is wages.
“Our members at LifeLabs earn on average between 4.5 per cent to 13.5 per cent less than workers doing exactly the same jobs in hospital labs and we want to see that gap addressed,” said Smith.
LifeLabs patient service centres are already busy and there are concerns job action will only make things worse.
“I know a lot of our patients have been reporting (waiting) multiple weeks to get an appointment at LifeLabs and having to wait hours in line just to get routine blood work done,” said Laura Todd, who works as an administrator in a Victoria-area doctor’s office.
Poor wages and working conditions have "created a staffing crisis at LifeLabs," according to an online post from the union.
"Staffing shortages are so bad that they had to suddenly shut down at least two patient service centres in Greater Victoria," said the BCGEU statement.
LifeLabs is responsible for the majority of outpatient lab work done across B.C.
The BCGEU said it has been engaged in six months of bargaining and several rounds of mediation.
LifeLabs advises patients to visit its website for more details on job action.
The union also said it will post information on which centres are impacted by job action online.
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