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Unionized LifeLabs staff ready for job action, including overtime ban, work to rule

B.C. General Employees’ Union members working for LifeLabs say they will begin job action against the company today with a rally at LifeLabs’ Burnaby location, followed by implementing of an overtime ban and work-to-rule campaign.
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The union, in a legal strike position as of 7 p.m. Friday, said workers are prepared to set up picket lines at specific LifeLabs locations if the employer fails to offer a fair deal by Nov. 1. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. General Employees’ Union members working for LifeLabs say they will begin job action against the company today with a rally at LifeLabs’ Burnaby location, followed by implementing of an overtime ban and work-to-rule campaign.

The union, which issued 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday after months of negotiations, said it is taking a strategic approach in dealing with the company.

“Job action doesn’t just mean strikes and picket lines,” said BCGEU president ­Stephanie Smith.

The union, in a legal strike position as of 7 p.m. Friday, said workers are prepared to set up picket lines at specific LifeLabs ­locations if the employer fails to offer a fair deal by Nov. 1.

Smith said the escalating tactics should give LifeLabs an opportunity to avoid more serious service disruptions by coming ­forward with an offer that gives health-care professionals the wages and working ­conditions they deserve.

Late Friday, LifeLabs notified the union that it would be prepared to resume negotiations on the weekend.

In a statement, the company said it ­continues to be committed to negotiations and hopes to reach a fair agreement soon to ­support the needs of its employees and the communities they serve.

The union, which represents 1,550 LifeLabs employees, says there are ­longstanding issues with low wages and understaffing at the company, the country’s largest community laboratory service, which ­provides a range of medical tests.

“By putting profits ahead of people, LifeLabs created a staffing crisis across their organization that was causing problems for their employees and their patients long before the pandemic,” Smith said. “They’ve refused to work with our members to address the underlying issues at the bargaining table so, unfortunately, job action is the next step.”

The escalating action includes ­workers refusing voluntary overtime hours, and ­performing their jobs precisely as outlined in their job descriptions and their last collective agreement.

The overtime ban and work-to-rule ­campaign will be in effect at all 94 LifeLabs locations where the BCGEU represents ­workers, the union said.

The company said LifeLabs has been designated an essential service by the B.C. Labour Relations Board, and has established with the union essential-service levels that will be maintained during job action.

LifeLabs said all locations will be open this weekend.

aduffy@timescolonist.com