The union representing some employees LifeLabs has issued a 72-hour strike notice on behalf of its members.
The B.C. General Employees’ Union (BCGEU) says notice was issued Tuesday, putting its roughly 1,500 members in a legal strike position by Friday night.
“There will be some LifeLabs that will still be accessible,” said Stephanie Smith, president of BCGEU. “We will be strategic about the job action that we’re taking and quite honestly we want to use this 72 hours to try and get a deal.”
A statement from the union says the action comes after a 98 per cent strike mandate in July, followed by several months of negotiations, bargaining and mediation.
LifeLabs is a privately owned company and popular medical testing service with over a dozen locations on southern Vancouver Island and many residents rely on them for a variety of services including heart monitoring and general blood tests.
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.
“Our members earn about 4.5 to 13.5 per cent less than those in exactly the same positions in the public service,” said Smith. “So we already are suffering in LifeLabs recruitment and retention issues.”
In a statement to CHEK News, LifeLabs says it is “committed to taking all steps possible to minimize disruption to patients and health care providers.”
The LifeLabs statement says it has been designated an essential service by the BC Labour Relations Board and has worked with the union to ensure it will be able to continue providing “vital outpatient laboratory testing for our patients.”
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.
Smith added the union has also created a website that patients can check to find out which locations are on strike.
The strike notice also comes amid an ongoing nationwide labour shortage that has hit the company hard, forcing them to temporarily close two Greater Victoria locations — their Westshore Town Centre location on 2945 Jacklin Rd. in Langford and their location on 1990 Fort St. in Oak Bay — earlier this month.
“Those closures happened because of the inability to staff the labs adequately and that staffing crisis is the direct result of the wage differential that our members are experiencing,” said Smith.
With files from The Canadian Press