The MPI shutdown and workers strike has been hard on body shops.
Roughly 1,700 unionized MPI workers across the province began a strike at 7:30 A.M. on Monday when an agreement on a new contract couldn't be reached with the Crown corporation.
In a press release the corporation says they have developed "contingency plans" with the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association, and the Automotive Trades Association to manage services formerly handled by MPI staff.
Melissa Peters Body Shop Manager at Fairway Ford in Steinbach, says things are tough and they haven’t even seen the full effects of the strike just yet.
“Basically any job that's coming in the shop, and if there's additions, we're sending it off to MPI, but we have not seen any responses as of yet.”
She says MPI has told them there is a very small crew that is reviewing these, but she has yet to see anything come back so far.
Peters says this leaves them with two options.
“Either the vehicle comes in and it just sits for MPI approval and we tick off all of our customers, or we go out on a limb and take a chance and order the additional parts, finish off our repair, and it sits in limbo until we get any kind of response from MPI.”
In the past, if someone has an accident they would phone MPI to report it to start a claim process, but now there is nobody answering phones.
MPI has given them temporary permission to get that ball rolling, but it’s just creating more work for the shop.
Peters says they are filling out the form, sending it off to MPI, but they are not getting any claim sheets.
“So we're just now having to book our customers for an estimate, and then from there they have a different process where we have to email it in, and maybe eventually somebody will look at it and then assign a claim number.”
She says they haven’t been given clear answers on what is going to happen.
“I'm not sure, are we running off of our private estimate a hundred percent through the way, or once there's a claim number assigned, are we having to now flip everything from our private estimate onto an MPI claim, which now doubles our workload in the office?”
She says the worst part is that they are now releasing fully repaired vehicles to customers without even knowing if they have approval on the additional parts that they found when they took the vehicle apart.
“So the gamble on it is huge. We’re hoping that MPI is seeing the damage the way we see it, but that's not always the case, so we're just taking a chance.”
Peters gives advice to those who have recently gotten into accidents.
“If their vehicle is drivable, I would just wait out this strike until MPI comes in, it'll just make the paperwork end of it at the end a lot easier. From what I'm being told by MPI is any vehicle that's deemed not drivable, the phone lines are still open for those ones.”
She says if your vehicle is not drivable then you should call MPI, but otherwise waiting for MPI to come back would be the best route.
“Because the shops are so slammed already, we don't know if we can actually help them in an efficient time matter right now anyways.”
She notes they have a couple vehicles sitting there which are close to writing off, but they need the okay from MPI on whether they can proceed or not.
“So this is just a huge delay for our customers because I don't know when I'm going to get a response from them on that, and then I have to now relay that back to my customer, and if it's repairable at that point, then that's where I can order the additional parts.”
She’s fairly confident all body shops are going through the same struggle.
“I am positive we're all in the same boat. We all heavily rely on those approvals and denials to come back, so I think we're all feeling it.”
With files from Adi Loewen
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