Pacific Blue Cross workers wearing signs that say lockoutBy locking out its unionized staff, Pacific Blue Cross (PBC) is only hurting its corporate brand and weakening the company with service disruptions and a mounting backlog of unprocessed benefit claims, union leaders told a picket line rally in support of CUPE Local 1816 outside PBC’s head office late this afternoon.

“Pacific Blue Cross and its CEO, Jan Grude, will of course blame the union for a situation that now sees us more than a month into a lockout with no end in sight,” said CUPE BC President Paul Faoro.

“But let’s remember: they’re the ones who started this by trying to roll back retiree benefits for their employees. They’re the ones who locked out their workers. They’re the ones who introduced unilateral changes to working conditions by cancelling sick time, flex time and family responsibility leave and by refusing to recognize seniority in promotions. And they’re the ones who ignored PBC Society bylaws by postponing the AGM. Did they not think there would be consequences?”

BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger said that PBC has no one to blame but itself for the service disruptions.

“Pacific Blue Cross has always prided itself on being a ‘progressive’ benefits provider,” said Lanzinger, “but a company that takes an all-or-nothing approach to bargaining, and then locks out its workers just because they won’t take concessions, is not being progressive.

“A company that tramples on the democratic rights of its members by cancelling its AGM, just because its board of directors is feeling the heat, is not being progressive. What kind of message does this send to plan subscribers—especially families on fixed incomes who just want to have their prescription drugs and their kids’ dental work paid for?”

CUPE 1816 President Beth Miller said that, later this week, PBC members will be able to visit a new page on CUPE BC’s website where they can tell the company to put a stop to service delays by ending the lockout and negotiating a fair deal for PBC staff as well as uncanceling the company’s previously scheduled September 7 AGM.

Also at the rally, locked out CUPE 1816 members thanked members of the public for their support throughout the lengthy labour dispute and presented a $1,000 cheque to the Canadian Red Cross for B.C. forest fire relief, the result of donations collected on the picket line.