Provincewide job action by workers at LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services is sure to delay test results and create longer lineups at patient service centres, says the company’s CEO.
About 150 employees shut down and picketed at least 40 locations on Monday, including 19 on Vancouver Island, after contract negotiations with the union broke down on the weekend.
Eleven labs in Greater Victoria were shut and the protests will continue today with the possibility of further action the rest of the week.
>>>Click HERE for a list of what's open and what's closed<<<
LifeLabs CEO Sue Paish rejected that view, saying the only remaining concession proposal was one that would have all employees pay their own long-term disability premiums.
She said the company’s wage offer was “competitive” with other health sector contracts and more reasonable than the union’s request for a nine-per-cent increase over three years.
“This strike will be incredibly disruptive for patients,” she said. “There will be, almost unquestionably, some delay in getting medical results.”
Union negotiators have a strike mandate and had issued a 72-hour notice before mediation even began.
Workers have been without a contract since December 31, 2011 and BCGEU president Darryl Walker said the company’s offer did not include a retroactive pay raise for 2012.
He does not want employees to pay long-term disability premiums. “That has always been paid for by the employer and it should stay that way,” he said.
The company had asked for employees to take two fewer vacation days, the union said.
But Paish said all but one concession was rescinded in an effort to get a deal signed.
A controversial backdrop for the negotiations is LifeLabs’ announcement last week that it is buying the B.C. Biomedical Laboratories, the province’s second-largest medical lab company after LifeLabs.
“They’re telling us ... concessions have to be made because it’s difficult making ends meet, but at the same time, they’re prepared to buy a company that does similar work,” said Walker.
Paish criticized the union for discussing the purchase within the context of contract negotiations.
“It is both curious and disappointing the union wants to raise the (Biomedical Laboratories) during bargaining,” she said. “This proposed transaction is in the middle of a significant regulatory review. It is imprudent for people to be talking about this transaction until those steps are taken.”
The deal could be complete as early as the spring, but it is subject to scrutiny from regulatory bodies.
LifeLabs serves four million B.C. patients each year at 80 locations. B.C. Biomedical serves more than two million annually through its 45 locations.
Walker said the union’s decision to strike is not linked to the proposed deal.
“We’ve been in the process of negotiating for more than a year now,” he said. “The purchase of another company has nothing to do with it.”
The company said patients can find the nearest open location by visiting its website: lifelabs.com.
© Copyright 2013