Lab workers immune to union busting; join union


ALL THE BULLYING, BLUSTER AND BULLSHIT DIDN’T WORK. The workers at LifeLabs operations in Toronto and Oshawa are now union members. The 100 couriers, clerks, dispatchers and mailroom workers at the LifeLabs operations recently voted to join OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union).

LifeLabs is the largest medical testing company in Ontario. It employs 5,700 workers in a total of 382 centres in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It bills the Ontario government over $400 million a year for its services. It prides itself on busting unions.

It’s been in an all out war with OPSEU ever since the workers in its lab in the Barrie area joined OPSEU in 2017. Last year, LifeLab managers suspended the president of the OPSEU local representing the Barrie workers.

Workers weren’t rattled

The battle for Toronto was even rougher says OPSEU president Smokey Thomas. “From CEO Charlie Brown down to its managers, LifeLabs pulled every trick in the book to keep its workers from exercising their legal right to join a union: intimidation, misinformation, and desperate legal roadblocks at every turn.”

LifeLabs managers even formed a “SWAT team” to intimidate and prevent its workers in Toronto from joining OPSEU. It tried to fire a woman with more than 30 years of experience because she talked openly about unionizing.

Company intimidation tactics also included laying off up to 15 per cent of its workers in Toronto and sending them home immediately.

It’s a move that tells you all you need to know about LifeLabs, says Thomas. “When Ontario needs more medical testing than ever, the province’s largest private testing company treats its workers like they’re disposable.”

None of it worked. The workers were ready for whatever LifeLabs handed out.

Something special

“Every victory is a cause for celebration,” says Thomas. “but these workers deserve extra praise and recognition for their courage and resolve. They faced down one of the most anti-union companies I’ve ever seen, and now they’ve won.”

“But these workers didn’t get rattled. They saw through all of the bluster and BS and they voted Yes to OPSEU. It’s a great day for them, and it’s a great day for our union—we’re that much stronger with them.”

A similar group of LifeLabs workers in Mississauga and Richmond Hill voted on joining OPSEU in May, but, true to form, LifeLabs is using technicalities to block counting of their votes.

“People across Ontario depend on the frontline workers at LifeLabs, especially during this pandemic. They’re risking their lives to keep us safe, but the company attacks them when they try to fight for decent wages and job security,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida.

LifeLabs suffered a data breach in late 2019 potentially affecting up to 15 million Canadians. Information that was compromised included health card numbers, names, email addresses, login, passwords and dates of birth.

“The results have come back and LifeLabs has tested positive for dangerous mismanagement,” says Thomas.

“Senior management should spend less time harassing their workers and more time stopping the huge privacy breaches that have landed it in so much hot water,” says Almeida.

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