10/02/2012 10:15 EDT | Updated 12/02/2012 05:12 EST

ICBC Union To Fight For Fired Estimators


The union representing six fired Insurance Corporation of B.C. estimators says it will fight the dismissals because the employees were just doing what the company had told them to do.

Five estimators were fired from the Richmond Claims Centre last week and one was let go in March after they allegedly violated ICBC policies by accepting estimates from certain auto body shops without visually inspecting damaged vehicles themselves.

"We're filing grievances today with ICBC," Jaime Zygmunt, of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, told CBC News Tuesday.

ICBC and COPE are currently embroiled in a contract dispute, but the union stops short of claiming the firings are connected to the negotiations.

But the union says the ICBC is at fault for the so-called policy violations.

“Our initial investigation indicates that our estimators were advised by management to do it this way,” Zygmunt said. “They were just following management direction.

“Due to workload, they were advised that it was okay to these estimates by phone calls.”

Most drivers involved in accidents take their vehicles directly to ICBC claims centres, where estimators evaluate the repair cost and inform the drivers where they can find accredited body shops to do the work.

But drivers can take their vehicles instead to certain body shops which estimators will visit in person to evaluate a claim to ensure repair costs are not over-estimated or padded. ICBC says it is these shops from which the fired estimators approved repair estimates by phone without personally examining the vehicles, violating policy.

ICBC informed the RCMP of the violations, suspecting possible kickbacks from the repair shops involved, but no evidence of under-the-table payments to estimators has been found, ICBC told CBC News.

As a result of the investigation, ICBC stripped one Richmond auto body shop of its accreditation, meaning it can no longer bill the corporation directly.

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