Health care workers represented by the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) working at LifeLabs began a job action Friday night after serving 72 hours strike notice but the Prince George patient services centre on Victoria Street will not be affected because its employees are not part of the BCGEU.
The union, which represents 1,550 workers at 94 LifeLabs branches all over the province, is seeking a new collective agreement after several months of negotiations resulted in a stalemate.
“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,” said BCGEU president, Stephanie Smith, in a prepared release. “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 first phase of the job action is happening this afternoon with a rally in front of the LifeLabs reference lab in Burnaby. After that, workers will start to refuse to fill voluntary overtime shifts offered by the employer and will begin a work-to-rule campaign, performing only the duties outlined in job descriptions in the existing collective agreement.
In an email to the Citizen this afternoon, LifeLabs said it notified the BCGEU through a mediator that it was prepared to resume negotiations this weekend and that those talks will resume this evening.
The union has said none of the patient services centres will close unless bargaining between the two parties reaches an impasse and that those centres will remain open as regularly scheduled.
The affected BCGEU workers are medical laboratory technologists, laboratory technical assistants, client information specialists, couriers and clinical testing assistants. Considered an essential service, agreements already in place ensure that some locations will remain open during the job action. The union will keep the public informed of any location closures through its website at lifelabs.bcgeu.ca.
A version of this story posted earlier on the Citizen website incorrectly stated the Prince George workers at LifeLabs patient services centre in the Victoria Medical Centre were part of the affected union.