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The Effects and Aftermath of the MPI Strike on Collision Repair Shops

The Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) strike ended after more than two months with an agreement between the MPI and unionised employees. How has this significant event impacted the collision repair industry?

by Ian Lau

On November 1, 2023, workers at Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) voted to accept a new contract with the Crown corporation, leading to the reopening of all MPI service and claim centres across the province. This resolution came after a strike that had lasted for more than two months. 

The strike, starting August 28, was a result of disputes over pay and labour conditions. As a consequence, collision repair shops had to take on extra responsibilities that would have originally been done by the MPI. While the strike has now ended, many collision shops are experiencing several new challenges and are likely to continue experiencing these effects in the future.

The Automotive Trades Association in Manitoba (ATA) conducted a post-strike survey among collision centres, asking businesses about how they handled the daily operations and some of the new tasks that they experienced during the strike. 

When asked if businesses stayed up-to-date on the strike’s impacts on their operations during the labour dispute, 74% of responses answered “yes.” Of these, 63% primarily relied on ATA email communications as their main source of this information. Access to relevant information regarding the strike’s effects on businesses was crucial during the dispute. This survey indicates that the ATA’s email updates adequately informed many business owners about what to expect.

The most significant challenges identified in the survey were waiting for approvals on marginals was identified as the top issue, followed closely by waiting for approvals on jobs over EALs (Earned Approval Limits), getting answers from MPI, and educating the customers. Interestingly, waiting for payments and opening claims scored much lower than the other struggles.

The survey also explored changes to the MPI processes that businesses would want to keep post-strike. Seventy-eight per cent of responses expressed an interest in keeping the ability for customers to open claims online. This is the most popular change to keep, with increased EAL following at 68%. On the other hand, ability to estimate and repair vandalism, hail, and partial thefts sit at 43%, 27%, 16% respectively. Only 6% of responders did not want to keep any of these changes. 

Finally, respondents were asked whether they think the strike had a negative effect on their businesses. The majority (61%), felt it had a negative impact. However, it is important to note that business experiences were varied. One response stated that the strike happening right after hail storms did not allow their shop to adequately prepare for what was to come. They mentioned their business struggling to keep up with their increased responsibilities, which influenced many shops’ reputation. Another response highlighted the influx of delayed repairs and frustrated customers. On the contrary, some businesses described their positive experiences. One business owner claimed that the process became faster and easier without the MPI’s involvement. Some were happy that shops had more input in the claims process. Overall, there were mixed opinions on whether or not the strike had a positive or negative impact as some shops struggled while others benefitted from the changes.

Although the strike has ended, many shop owners have made it clear that the strike has left a lasting impact on their businesses. The dispute brought many changes to collision repair in Manitoba, some beneficial and some challenging, varying from one business to another. Repair shops are now focusing on growing from this experience and preparing for any major changes that could come their way.