KAWARTHA LAKES-Some 150 GTA LifeLabs couriers and mailroom staff represented by OPSEU/SEFPO are on strike after negotiations failed to produce a settlement.
“LifeLabs is one of the most profitable enterprises in Canada but won’t pay their staff a living wage,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Even after the hard work and sacrifices of the pandemic, LifeLabs sees no reason to pay its workers more than a handful of beans.”
LifeLabs says this will not impact local services.
“The OPSEU labour action will not have an impact in Kawartha Lakes.” said LifeLabs Media Team. “LifeLabs is committed to working with our local OPSEU partners to reach a fair agreement. We have been in negotiations since May 2021; however, OPSEU has left the bargaining table despite our competitive offers.”
Workers with Local 5119 voted to become OPSEU/SEFPO members in 2020 and are seeking a first collective agreement with LifeLabs. Couriers collect samples from offices and deliver them to the laboratory for analysis. Talks have centred on wage and benefits enhancements, sick time, full-time status, mileage and vacation.
“We’re not looking for the moon,” said Bargaining Team Chair Mahmood Alawneh.
“We’re just looking for decent compensation so we can provide properly for our families. A lot of us are working two, three jobs to keep bread on the table. It’s time LifeLabs shared some of their profits with the people making the company successful.”
LifeLabs says they are hopeful that they can reach a balanced agreement soon.
“Meanwhile, we have a business continuity plan that allows us to maintain courier and mailroom service throughout any job action in order to minimize any disruption to patients and health care providers.” said the media representatives.
LifeLabs does some $1 billion in sales annually, while couriers and mailroom staff in Toronto are paid an average $35,000 salary according to the union.
“We’ve got a real-life David-and-Goliath story here,” observed OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “On the one hand, you’ve got a hugely profitable diagnostics giant. On the other, you’ve got a small group of workers trying to get a fair shake. They’re living in the most expensive city in Canada but earning starvation wages.
“LifeLabs should understand that getting rich on the blood and sweat of cheap labour belongs to Victorian England – not 21st-century Canada,” Almeida added. “They need to start sharing the wealth with their employees.”
Thomas called on LifeLabs CEO Charles Brown to return to the bargaining table.
This story has been updated with information and comment from LifeLabs.