Dynacare lab workers poised to strike in Winnipeg, Brandon

Lab workers at Dynacare, a diagnostics company that does the majority of blood and urine analysis in Manitoba outside of hospitals, have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate in Winnipeg and Brandon.

The more than 300 workers have not had a contract since the last one expired April 1.

A strike “will have a very significant impact on the health-care system,” though the union and its members would prefer to avoid that, said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

He noted that 99 per cent of those who voted — nearly 80 per cent of the members — did so in favour of a strike, if further negotiations are unsuccessful on a new contract.

“We want to avert strike action, but the the message that we received from our members was that, as dedicated as they are, they absolutely require a much better offer from the employer given everything that’s going on in the last few years,” Moroz said, referring to the amount of testing done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wages were frozen under the last contract by government legislation that has since been repealed, Moroz said.

As a result, the money earned by those workers has fallen behind that in other provinces, which are luring people away with better pay, he said.

“We’re really worried that, unless Dynacare understands the recruitment and retention issues that go along with a decent collective agreement, we’re going to be in significant trouble if people start moving out of the province,” Moroz said.

Negotiations between Dynacare and the union began in February 2022 and an original offer made by the company in late spring or early summer “was soundly rejected” by the workers, Moroz said.

A second, and final offer, presented recently by Dynacare is not significantly different “and in fact, was a little worse in some ways,” he said.

Meeting set for Friday

The union is now in a position to submit a strike notice at any time. No deadline for a better contract offer has yet been set, but the union is meeting Friday with Dynacare “to see where we stand,” Moroz said.

If it comes down to it, the workers would be in a position to walk off the job within 14 days of a strike notice being issued.

The workers are at Dynacare locations across Winnipeg and Brandon, including sites at private medical clinics, malls, and the company’s Winnipeg headquarters on King Edward Street.

“The work our members do for Dynacare and for Manitoba patients is essential to our health-care system and they stepped up even more to do COVID testing during the pandemic even though they were falling behind in wages,” Moroz said.

“Now inflation is making life downright unaffordable, so it’s time for Dynacare to do the right thing and recognize their employees’ value.”

In an emailed statement, a Dynacare spokesperson told CBC News, “We respect our employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain and we will continue to work in partnership with their union as we work towards a timely resolution.”