Skip to content

Strike deadline nears for unionized LifeLabs employees

In Kamloops, three of the four LifeLabs locations are unionized and could be impacted as of 7 p.m. on Oct. 22
LifeLabs
LifeLabs has four clinics in Kamloops: two downtown, one in Aberdeen and this location in North Kamloops, in the Library Square complex.

As a strike deadline looms for unionized workers of LifeLabs, the union president said workers are facing poor wages and working conditions that have created a staffing crisis.

“The bottom line is LifeLabs is another privately owned company trying to protect their profit margins at the expense of their workers, despite the fact that the pandemic has proven time and again that this approach literally puts lives at risk," BC General Employees’ Union president Stephanie Smith said.

Lifelabs, Canada’s largest laboratory testing service, provides medical lab services and employs approximately 1,550 workers in B.C. It offers various services, including blood and COVID-19 tests.

With strike notice served on Oct. 20, the earliest workers can strike is 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 22. Some LifeLabs locations may remain open during job action, however, due to essential service agreements.

The strike notice follows 30 days of bargaining and eight days of mediation, according to the union.

There are about 130 LifeLabs locations in B.C. and another 250 in Ontario and Saskatchewan combined. The union says 94 of those locations have unionized. In Kamloops, there are four LifeLabs locations: two downtown, one in Aberdeen and one in North Kamloops. Only the Aberdeen location, at 1966 Harrison Way, is not unionized.

The union is demanding better wages and said the gap between LifeLabs workers and public sector pay is between 4.5 and 13.5 per cent.

BCGEU positions at LifeLabs include medical laboratory technicians, technician assistants, client information specialists, couriers and clinical assistants.

"They basically just want a respectful advance,” BCGEU communications officer Bronwen Barnett said. “Where they stand right now, they're not expecting to close the gap entirely. With every round of bargaining, they get closer and closer to a better wage.”

LifeLabs is owned by a pension fund in Ontario called OMERS, or the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. As of December 2020, the fund had assets of $105 billion, according to its annual report.

KTW has reached out to LifeLabs for comment on the matter and is awaiting a reply.

LifeLabs had earlier pointed Black Press to a statement after being asked about the union’s claim that the company attempted to reduce sick benefits and vacation pay at the start of negotiations — a stance later reversed, according to the BCGEU.

“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 https://locations.lifelabs.com.