Province steps in to prevent walkout at DynaLIFE

People needing lab tests over the summer won’t have to worry after the provincial government appointed a disputes inquiry board to help DynaLIFE Dx and its employees come to an agreement.

Fearing a lab worker strike Brenda Gay decided to get blood work done early in preparation for a hip replacement surgery she has scheduled for next week.

People needing lab tests over the summer won’t have to worry after the provincial government appointed a disputes inquiry board to help DynaLIFE Dx and its employees come to an agreement.

More than 900 DynaLIFE Dx lab technologists, lab assistants, drivers, call centre employees, transcriptionists and clerks were set to strike on Friday, before the Alberta government stepped in late Tuesday afternoon.

Of those workers 24 DynaLIFE Dx workers — made up of a lab technologist/X-ray technologist and lab assistant/helpers — are responsible for taking blood, urine, feces and saliva samples in an office located at 4755 49 Street in downtown Red Deer.

Barrie Harrison, a spokesman with Alberta Employment and Immigration, said the disputes inquiry board means there will be no strike on Friday, nor will the employer be allowed to lock out employees.

Jason Pincock, chief operating officer with DynaLIFE Dx, said the key message is that it’s business as usual and people can access services like normal on Friday.

“I think the most important thing for the public and our patients is that they can keep accessing services as they have for the last 30 years,” said Pincock.

“This does not end all potential action because it does require agreement at the end. It is a mediation process. I do hope that this ends in resolution that does not see any future action.”

Over the next few months the head of the disputes inquiry board will be working with the company DynaLIFE Dx and the union the Health Sciences Association of Alberta to come up with a collective agreement that both can agree on.

A recommendation from the disputes inquiry board will go forward to both parties on Sept. 25, with the company and employees both having an opportunity to vote on the new collective agreement.

If the deal is rejected it could once again mean the union could provide 72 hours strike notice or the employer could offer lockout notice.

Elisabeth Ballermann, president of the union, wasn’t able to be reached after the government announcement.

However, earlier on Tuesday she said the workers want a seniority clause in the agreement that would ensure the company couldn’t pick and choose who would get laid off.

She said the fear is the company will pick the most senior and most expensive staff or the strongest union supporters to lay off if a clause of that kind doesn’t exist.

Ballermann said they want to ensure rest periods are laid out in the contract because at the moment workers are often called back in to work, they don’t get adequate rest periods or breaks, or adequate compensation for the overtime that they do.

The union wants some sort of better deal for pension contributions by the company as well, either a defined benefit pension or more than the 2.5 per cent contribution to the RRSP offered by the company.

“When the economy was booming this company was quite happy to rake in the profits and not share them with its employees, but when the economy tanks they ask the employees to subsidize them and quite frankly the employees are tired of subsidizing them,” Ballermann said.

In Red Deer most of the collection of blood, urine, feces and saliva samples is done by DynaLIFE Dx workers downtown, with much of the actual testing taking place at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta was certified as the union representing the workers in August and organizers have been negotiating with the company since January.

Before the disputes board was put in place many Red Deer residents were scrambling to get lab tests done before the strike hit.

Red Deer bride-to-be Brenda Gay was among many people who slipped in to get tests done on Tuesday. Her tests were scheduled for Friday, but she feared the appointment might not happen.

“I heard they will treat critical people, but I’m not sure what is considered critical,” Gay said.

“That’s why I’m being proactive.”

Gay needed to have the tests done so she can go for a preliminary appointment before her hip surgery in October.

“I want to be walking down the aisle, not limping down the aisle,” said Gay, who plans to get married next August.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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