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LifeLabs union issues strike notice

Workers may hit the picket lines as of 7 p.m. on Oct. 22, with wages the main issue between the private company and the BC General Employees' Union
LifeLabs
LifeLabs has four clinics in Kamloops: two downtown, one in Aberdeen and this location in North Kamloops, in the Library Square complex.

The union representing LifeLabs employees has issued a 72-hour strike notice that lead to picket lines as early as Friday, Oct. 22.

The union represents 1,550 workers across the province, including those at the three locations in Kamloops: two downtown, one in Aberdeen and one in North Kamloops.

The B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) served the strike notice to LifeLabs as of 7 p.m. on Oct.19, meaning the earliest job action could come is Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., according to a release from the BCGEU.

LifeLabs, however, is considered an essential service, which ensures that some locations remain open during job action. LifeLabs patients will be able to check which locations are on strike at lifelabs.bcgeu.ca

BCGEU workers have been without a new contract since this past April and the main issue remains a wage increase.

“BCGEU members working for LifeLabs are among the ‘health-care heroes’ that have pushed themselves to the limit and beyond throughout the pandemic,” BCGEU president Stephanie Smith said in the release. “Instead of coming to the table willing to recognize the hard work and sacrifices of their employees by addressing long-standing issues with low wages and under-staffing, LifeLabs came to the table demanding concessions.”

According to the union, LifeLabs continues to resist its demand of higher wages that would keep up with rising inflation and bring employees closer to the public sector industry standard for their field.

The pending strike action action follows months of negotiations, 30 days at the bargaining table and eight days of mediation.

LifeLabs workers voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action this past July.

The BCGEU said when bargaining began in April, the company attempted to reduce sick benefits and vacation pay. LifeLabs replied to that allegation in a statement.

“We have delivered multiple, competitive offers to the BCGEU and reached agreement on several specific proposals, including key monetary proposals. However, after the BCGEU rejected our latest offer, we agreed that we have reached an impasse in bargaining,” the statement reads.

LifeLabs said patients will be contacted if their appointments need to be rescheduled due to labour action. Details on operating hours can be found at lifelabs.com.

LifeLabs, a private company, is Canada’s largest laboratory testing service, offering myriad services, including blood and COVID-19 tests.