In a strongly worded letter to Pacific Blue Cross (PBC) CEO Jan Grude and PBC Board Chair Mark Olsen, Healthcare Benefit Trust (HBT) has urged the non-profit benefits provider to do everything in its power to end the labour dispute with CUPE 1816—now approaching its fifth month—and return service levels to normal.

In the August 17 letter, HBT CEO Donnie Wing expresses the Trust’s “significant concern” about the service disruptions, given that more than 80,000 British Columbians receive benefits in the healthcare sector. The letter cites as examples “the closure of the call centre and delays in claims processing, actuarial reporting and rates provision, plan change implementation as well as employer set up and assistance among other business as usual activities.”

Reminding PBC of its agreement with HBT and side agreements between PBC and the Joint Trusts, the letter reminds the company of its obligations under the Master Agreement and “that HBT and the Joint Trusts will continue to expect PBC to meet the service standards agreed to” in the Master and side agreements. It also requests that PBC provide HBT and the Joint Trusts with “a formal, written plan for its delivery of services…in the event that labour disruption continues at PBC.”

The letter makes clear that neither HBT nor the Joint Trusts waive any term or condition of the Master or side agreements and “reserve their right to pursue all contractual remedies including penalty assessments” under the Master agreement. In the meantime, HBT and the Joint Trusts request “timely updates” from PBC “on the progress of its discussions with CUPE Local 1816 as guidance on a timeframe for the resolution of this dispute and resumption of full services….We implore PBC to resume discussions to resolve this issue swiftly with CUPE Local 1816.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to affiliated locals this week, CUPE BC President Paul Faoro has asked all locals throughout the province to make financial donations to CUPE 1816, write to Grude and Olsen demanding an end to the lockout, ask their PBC members to visit and share their concerns, and visit the picket line to show solidarity.