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Delta's LifeLabs workers walk off job over contract impasse
Workers at LifeLabs in Ladner and Tsawwassen walked the picket line on Monday and Tuesday (Jan. 21, 22) following the union's rejection of the medical company's latest offer.
More than 700 members from the BC Government and Service Employees Union picketed 40 locations across B.C. after voting to reject a Jan. 19 mediated wage offer of 1.3 per cent over the three year agreement.
Employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2011, and after unsuccessfully bargaining from May to October, the two sides agreed to mediation last month.
Although mediation recently helped CUPE come to a deal with the Corporation of Delta, Karen Tankard, communications officer for the BCGEU, said LifeLabs is a private, for-profit company and cannot be compared to public sector settlements.
"Each bargaining table is different, and just because one group is successful with mediation doesn't mean that everyone is going to be," she said. "Mediation can help two sides come together if they're close, but if there is a huge gap mediation isn't always successful."
BC Bio Medical employees make three per cent more than workers at LifeLabs, which is the wage the BCGEU is asking for.
"But you can't really look at the wages in isolation. A collective agreement is a package of proposals that also deals with benefits and their costs and so you can't just look at the money part," she said, adding the wage expectation could drop depending on benefits.
Fueling anger among employees is the fact that during bargaining talks, LifeLabs purchased BC Bio Medical for an undisclosed amount, though it's expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tankard said there were no immediate plans to strike again until at least after next Monday (Jan. 28), and the union is required to give 36-hour strike notice if they walk out again.
The BCGEU represents LifeLab workers in jobs such as technical resources, technologists, and equipment specialists, among others.