High turnover rate, lower wages prompt Brandon hospital lab techs to organize information picket

Lab technologists from the Brandon Regional Health Centre will hold an information picket outside of the city's hospital on Tuesday because they say a high turnover rate and lower wages is putting diagnostic services at risk.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, which represents about 110 lab techs at the Westman Lab in Brandon, said in a news release that technologists in the western Manitoba city are currently paid seven percent less than lab technologists in other areas of the province.

The union says members of the Westman lab have been without a contract for more than three years and that enough is enough. 

"Last year alone, we're looking at more than a 20% turnover rate [at BRHC]," MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said in a release. "It's a situation that's unfair to those doing the exact same job for less, and to those in the area whose diagnostic services end up taking the hit."

"Right now we've got a real problem with open positions," she said. "Nobody will apply for jobs. If you're making seven per cent less than wages than anywhere else, why would you come to work at Westman lab?" 

Gawronsky said the resulting staff shortages are leading to unmanageable workloads and burnout, which could impact services. 

She said other lab technologists in the province, which negotiate as part of the Technical Professional Central Table, ratified a new collective agreement almost a year ago — and it included retroactive pay. 

"They are frustrated and disappointed to say the least," Gawronsky said. "This is a specialty lab in our province that does all kinds of specialty testing. This is the centre port in all of Manitoba where a lot of specialty tests are being done and these folks are just feeling like they're not being treated fairly at all."

She said she understands wage freezes may be coming for public sector employees in Manitoba, but believes employees at the Brandon lab would have their wages increased the same as they would have been three years ago if they had reached a deal at the same time as units that represent workers at other labs in the province.

Gawronsky and MGEU members plan to host an information picket outside of the hospital along Victoria Avenue on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.