In late August, more than 1,700 unionized Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) workers walked off the job. But Ferd Klassen says it’s not “panic mode” amid the autobody industry–at least, not yet.
“[MPI] is constantly adjusting things on the fly,” said Klassen, the president of Manitoba’s Automotive Trades Association (ATA) and owner of Niverville Autobody.
“I don’t feel that the trade, as a whole, is panicking. There are certain aspects of our day-to-day that we may be unsure of, but we’re working closely with MPI to adjust on the fly and process supplements, requests, final payments and so on.”
The number one goal for many Manitoban bodyshops, like countless others across Canada, is working through a slew of backlogged repairs. “Almost every collision centre here is booking six weeks, to eight weeks out.”
Klassen said he’s willing to bet that most shops will not be adjusting their schedules, even if claims do stop rolling through for a month or two. “It doesn’t matter who I talk to–there are very few shops that are booking less than a month out.”
Facilities with direct repair partnerships with MPI are allowed to create their own estimates, but there is a cap on how many estimates a shop is allowed to write themselves and certain types of losses were previously not permitted to be written by the collision centre. “Now, they’re letting shops write everything.”
He explained that every DRP shop has an EAL–an earned authority limit–allowing them to write estimates and begin repairs as long as the car is not marginal or a total loss consideration.
“We’re allowed to repair and collect payment for anything that meets our EAL or under,” explained Klassen. “MPI has upped that limit twice since when the strike began as one of their tactics to make sure shops get paid.” The ATA and MPI maintain a good relationship, said Klassen, where the public insurer openly listens to repairer concerns to make adjustments, when possible.
“The professionalism in Manitoba is showing itself. It’s incredible how positive most of the shops are about this. And, myself, as a shop owner, I am not overly concerned–yet.”