B.C. labour leaders attending a rally Friday in support of CUPE 1816 members heaped scorn on their employer, Pacific Blue Cross (PBC), for targeting their retiree benefits while promoting the company as a progressive benefits provider.

With the strike in its second month, members walked off the job Friday morning to hold a rally outside the company’s head office. Union leaders, addressing the crowd, urged PBC to respect its employees and stop attacking their benefits.

CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer Trevor Davies said that PBC has failed to live up to its reputation as a progressive employer.

“Just look at the irony of this situation—a company whose primary business is providing benefits to unionized workers all over the province actually fighting to cut benefits from its own employees,” said Davies. “On what planet does it make sense to attack your own business model while at the same time attacking the retired workers who made your business a success?”

MoveUP Together Acting President Lori Mayhew noted that PBC’s bargaining strategy has become all too familiar.

“Employers everywhere are digging in—trying to squeeze out every last dollar and benefit from their hard-working employees,” she said. “They all use the same tactics: false claims of financial hardship and the need for cutbacks. A refusal to negotiate or come to the table. Or they show up with nothing and a complete unwillingness to move their position. We know all the tricks—and they will not work.”

BC Federation of Labour Secretary-Treasurer Aaron Ekman blamed the company’s CEO, Jan K. Grude, for a confrontational bargaining approach that has led to the current dispute.

“The climate of fear and mistrust, is unprecedented for this organization,” said Ekman. “Workers who have been here for years say that office morale has never been worse than it is today. Is that the legacy that Mr. Grude wants for his leadership?”