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Westman Lab staff leaving for more money in same building: MGEU

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union members picket along Victoria Avenue East in front of the Brandon Regional Health Centre over lunch on Tuesday in support of Westman Lab Local 351 workers who have been without a contract for over three years. The union claims they are paid seven per cent less than other lab workers in the province.

TIM SMITH/THE BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union members picket along Victoria Avenue East in front of the Brandon Regional Health Centre over lunch on Tuesday in support of Westman Lab Local 351 workers who have been without a contract for over three years. The union claims they are paid seven per cent less than other lab workers in the province.

Lab technologists and technicians are leaving Westman Lab to do the same job in the same building for an additional $2.50 per hour, according to the union that represents them.

Tuesday, during an information picket outside Brandon Regional Health Centre, Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky said their members, who work at BRHC, aren’t going far away to find other employment.

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky (centre in red) addresses MGEU members during an information picket along Victoria Avenue East in front of the Brandon Regional Health Centre over lunch on Tuesday in support of Westman Lab Local 351 workers who have been without a contract for more than three years.

Enlarge Image

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky (centre in red) addresses MGEU members during an information picket along Victoria Avenue East in front of the Brandon Regional Health Centre over lunch on Tuesday in support of Westman Lab Local 351 workers who have been without a contract for more than three years. (TIM SMITH/THE BRANDON SUN)

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union members picket along Victoria Avenue East in front of the Brandon Regional Health Centre over lunch on Tuesday in support of Westman Lab Local 351 workers.

Enlarge Image

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union members picket along Victoria Avenue East in front of the Brandon Regional Health Centre over lunch on Tuesday in support of Westman Lab Local 351 workers. (TIM SMITH/THE BRANDON SUN)

"Folks are leaving and they’re leaving to go work on another floor in the same building for $2.50 more," Gawronsky told gathered media.

"Why would you stay at a place where you’re making less money?"

Currently, there are 12 vacancies at the lab, she said.

At least 50 MGEU members picketed along Victoria Avenue Tuesday to bring attention to the wage discrepancy.

The approximately 120 Westman Lab employees represented by MGEU are being paid seven per cent less than their provincial counterparts, according to the union. They have been without a new collective agreement for three years.

A year ago, other lab technologists and technicians, who are MGEU members, ratified their collective agreement as part of the Technical Professional Central Table. They were offered retroactive pay, dating back to the expiry of their last contract.

In the past, Westman Lab Local 351 has taken a "me, too" approach to the contract negotiations of their counterparts, Gawronsky said, but they were not included this time.

The provincial election put a hold on discussions between the government’s negotiating body and MGEU, she said. Two bargaining meetings were held last month and a third date, set for April 10, was cancelled, prompting the information picket.

It wouldn’t take long to reach a new contract, Gawronsky reasoned.

"I’d say we’d have a collective agreement within a matter of hours if we could just get the same wage scale for everyone else," she said, as two motorists drove past, honking their approval for the picketing workers.

MGEU prevented Westman Lab employees from speaking to media, saying staff may face repercussion from their employer, Diagnostic Services Manitoba.

In a written statement, the diagnostic health care service provider said, "Westman Laboratory staff are integral members of Diagnostic Services Manitoba’s provincial laboratory network and we thank them for their professionalism and dedication to patient care. We look forward to negotiating the outstanding contract at the bargaining table for our Westman team."

MGEU’s head office did not respond to requests from The Brandon Sun to reveal the current salary range of their staff at Westman Lab.

Employees at the top end of the laboratory’s pay scale are seeking roughly 60 cents more per hour each year in their next contract, Gawronsky shared.

Westman Lab is the reference laboratory for more than 100 medical facilities across Manitoba, including many health-care providers in rural Manitoba as well as the Brandon Regional Health Authority and some facilities in Winnipeg.

The services they provide include blood, tissue and cell testing, microbiology, clinical chemistry and transfusion medicine.

» ifroese@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @ianfroese

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 19, 2017

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Lab technologists and technicians are leaving Westman Lab to do the same job in the same building for an additional $2.50 per hour, according to the union that represents them.

Tuesday, during an information picket outside Brandon Regional Health Centre, Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky said their members, who work at BRHC, aren’t going far away to find other employment.

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Lab technologists and technicians are leaving Westman Lab to do the same job in the same building for an additional $2.50 per hour, according to the union that represents them.

Tuesday, during an information picket outside Brandon Regional Health Centre, Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky said their members, who work at BRHC, aren’t going far away to find other employment.

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