BCGEU issues 72-hour strike notice to Lifelabs, which conducts COVID-19 tests

Last July, 98 percent of the company's unionized workers voted to give the union a strike mandate

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      B.C.'s largest private-sector lab-testing company could conceivably be behind picket lines as soon as 7 p.m. on Friday (October 22).

      The B.C. General Employees' Union, a.k.a. the BCGEU, has issued 72-hours strike notice after contracts broke down with Lifelabs.

      The two sides have been negotiating for several months and went through eight days of mediation.

      Last July, 98 percent of the company's unionized workers voted to give the union a strike mandate. The main issue is wages.

      The company does a large number of COVID-19 tests in addition to testing for many other diseases.

      “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,” BCGEU president Stephanie Smith alleged in a union news release.

      “Poor wages and working conditions have created a staffing crisis at LifeLabs, forcing them to shut down facilities on Vancouver Island. Members are fighting for a fair deal that will stabilize staffing and ensure better service for patients.”

      Last December when the company announcd that it had completed more than one million COVID-19 tests in Canada, the president and CEO, Charles Brown, praised the employees.

      “Every day, I am impressed by the incredible agility and unwavering commitment our frontline teams have shown in their response to COVID-19,” Brown said. “They have done so under incredible pressure and constraints to ensure everyone is protected from COVID-19 in our facilities. Thank you to everyone for their incredible hard work.”

      In a news release at the time, the company stated that it had doubled its workforce and shifted to a 24/7 schedule to process these tests.