Over a year and a half ago, the United Conservative government announced that it was going to privatize lab testing services in Alberta. This announcement came after months of lobbying by people who had donated over $100,000 to the UCP or its predecessor parties.
The company it was selling the public services (Alberta Public Laboratories) to was DynaLIFE, which had already been providing community lab services in the capital region, as well as in parts of northern and central Alberta, since April 2021. The contract was a 14-year deal, with an option to extend for an additional 10 years.
As part of that contract, DynaLIFE inherited nearly 1,100 unionized workers who were in the middle of a 5-year collective bargaining agreement. That agreement expired last March.
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According to the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, the union that represents those nearly 1,100 workers, bargaining on a new agreement began over a year ago, before the contract expired.
However, because of stalling, negotiations went to mediation, first with informal mediation and soon formal mediation.
According to HSAA, this stalling is primarily driven by DynaLIFE’s insistence on a two-tier wage structure, with workers who came over from APL being paid different from those who were already with DynaLIFE.
DynaLIFE believes that their employees do not deserve the same compensation as their colleagues who transitioned from APL. HSAA believes lab workers deserve the same pay and same benefits for the same work. DynaLIFE refuses to move from their unfair position, thus bargaining has broken down and informal mediation was unsuccessful.
HSAA’s next step is to start working on an essential services agreement, which is an agreement between the employer and the bargaining agent that identifies the positions necessary for the employer to provide essential services. They’ll need one if they go to formal mediation.
If DynaLIFE continues to insist on a two-tier wage structure, negotiations could end up them locking out workers or the workings holding a strike vote.
DynaLIFE’s refusal to create an equitable work environment for all workers comes on the heels of their desire to scale back worker pensions, on which the Alberta Labour Relations Board recently ruled in favour of the workers.
The HSAA claims that DynaLIFE currently has over 200 job vacancies while simultaneously dealing with “rapidly ballooning wait times”.