British Columbia

Unionized staff at LifeLabs to take job action after months-long fight over contract issues

More than 1,500 workers at LifeLabs will begin taking job action at 7 p.m. PT on Friday, after talks over the last three days collapsed. The strike will begin with a refusal to work overtime, effective Saturday.

Union staff have been without a contract since April, union says

A LifeLabs clinic is pictured in Vancouver on June 25, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

UPDATE — Oct. 22, 2021: More than 1,500 workers at LifeLabs will begin taking job action at 7 p.m. PT on Friday, after talks over the last three days collapsed. The strike will begin with a refusal to work overtime, effective Saturday.

EARLIER STORY:

The union representing some workers at LifeLabs, the largest provider of medical laboratory services in British Columbia, has issued a strike notice on behalf of its members.

The B.C. General Employees' Union says notice was issued Tuesday, putting its roughly 1,500 members in a legal strike position by Friday night.

"In July, we took a strike vote, and it was overwhelmingly in favour. It was 98 per cent," BCGEU president Stephanie Smith told CBC News

She said the union has been in negotiations with LifeLabs for several months to try and reach a deal, but have been unable to reach an agreement.

Workers have been without a contract since April and the union says wages are the main issue, although LifeLabs says on its website that agreement had been reached on key monetary provisions before the union rejected its latest offer.

"They wanted to reduce sick times, they wanted to reduce vacation time," Smith said. "On average, our members are paid between 4.5 to 13.5 per cent less for doing exactly the same work as workers in the public health care system."

She said union members want to see their employer make steps toward closing that wage gap.

The LifeLabs statement says it has been designated an essential service by the B.C. Labour Relations Board and it expects most of its outlets will stay open and laboratories will function as usual.

It warns customers that some LifeLabs outlets in B.C. could be closed on a rotating basis as early as Monday and it advises patients to check its website for details.

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