New OMERS CEO must immediately fix ‘dangerous mismanagement’ at its company LifeLabs

Toronto – Blake Hutcheson will soon take over as the new CEO of OMERS, the pension plan that owns LifeLabs, and OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding that he put a stop to the company’s layoffs and union-busting that are leaving all Ontarians in greater danger of COVID-19.

“The results have come back and LifeLabs has tested positive for dangerous mismanagement,” said Thomas. “Incoming OMERS CEO Blake Hutcheson has the power to breathe new life into LifeLabs and there isn’t a second to spare – lives and livelihoods are at risk.”

“As the 100 per cent owner of LifeLabs, Mr. Hutcheson is 100 per cent responsible for ensuring the company is doing everything it can to keep its workers and the public safe,” Thomas said. “He is 100 per cent responsible for stopping the layoffs and union-busting that are putting us all in jeopardy, and we intend to hold him to that responsibility.”

Three years ago, a group of LifeLabs workers in the Simcoe area joined OPSEU, and have been able to obtain much more stringent safety measures in the face of the pandemic than the company has provided its more than 1,000 workers in the Toronto area.

At the same time, the company has aggressively targeted Toronto workers who also want to join OPSEU, many of whom are racialized women stuck in precarious and short-term contracts.

To intimidate workers who want to exercise their Constitutional right to unionize, LifeLabs managers formed “SWAT teams” that tried to fire a woman with more than 30 years of experience because she talked openly about unionizing.

Just last week, a strong majority of the company’s couriers in Toronto voted to join OPSEU, but the company is holding up their union certification with stall tactics and baseless procedural wrangling.

And now in the most hamfisted, anti-union move possible, directly linked to the successful union drive, the company is laying off up to 15 per cent of its workers in Toronto and sending them home immediately.

“What’s happening right now at LifeLabs is scandalous,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

“Ontario needs more medical testing than ever, but the province’s largest private testing company is treating its workers like they’re disposable.”

Thomas called on the 500,000 members of OMERS to demand that their pension plan live up to its core values of respect for work and workers.

“OMERS wouldn’t exist if workers hadn’t been able to join together in strong unions, and now it is profiting from a company that targets and attacks its workers.” said Thomas. “Do OMERS members realize that their pension plan doesn’t even offer a pension to its own workers? Do they know their retirements are being funded by union-busting? Is Mr. Hutcheson content cashing his CEO paycheque funded by the very union movement LifeLabs and its CEO Charles Brown is trying to destroy?

This is unconscionable. My office has reached out to Mr. Hutcheson, but so far radio silence. That is, to say the least, an inauspicious debut to his reign. I have met Mr. Hutcheson. I expected better.

“As the truth comes out, OMERS must do the right thing and force their pension plan’s new CEO to clean house at the top of LifeLabs. This company is sick and only radical treatment will save it.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931