This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:
The British Columbia General Employee Union is picketing government liquor distribution centers. The explanation for this strategic choice can be found in the Liquor Distribution Act, which is the legal basis for how alcohol is sold in British Columbia.
The Liquor Distribution Act creates a government monopoly over alcohol distribution in the province. The legal scheme in the act starts from the proposition that the government acquires ownership of any liquor imported into or created in the province.
By picketing government-owned liquor warehouses, the BCGUE is leveraging the artificial legal monopoly over liquor distribution in BC.
The origin of the Liquor Distribution Branch in British Columbia is prohibition, which existed in the province from 1917 until 1920. The first government liquor store opened on June 15, 1921.
More than 100 years later, we still have a government-owned monopoly distributing all alcohol in British Columbia.
The Liquor Distribution Branch now employs nearly 5,000 people.
The provincial government has recently modelled a system for marijuana distribution after the system of liquor distribution.
Even other highly regulated and taxed products are not distributed and retailed through an entirely separate government-owned system.
Everything from orange juice to cigarettes are distributed and sold without thousands of government employees, separate warehouses, and retail stores.
The 100-year-old model of a government-owned model of liquor distribution creates significant and unnecessary expenses for the government and means that the thousands of people employed in this system are not available to do other work. In a time of acute labour shortages, it would be desirable for these employees could be made available to undertake work in many areas where there are shortages of employees.
Also, on the show, a case dealing with wrongful dismissal and the test for termination vs abandoning a job is discussed.
The case involved a 68-year-old commercial truck driver who had worked for a logging contracting company for more than 15 years when he suffered a medical emergency and required heart surgery.
After being off work for nearly a year, the truck driver recovered, contacted his employer about returning to work, and provided a letter from his doctor confirming he was fit to do so.
The employer indicated they would contact the truck driver about work but never did so.
After four months of waiting, the truck driver took another job which he held for a short time.
The issue for the judge was whether the truck driver was dismissed or voluntarily resigned.
If an employee is dismissed without sufficient notice, they can be entitled to severance pay.
While, in this case, both the employee and employer may have been operating on mistaken assumptions about what the other party intended because of a failure to communicate, the legal test for dismissal is different from the test for voluntary resignation.
For there to be a dismissal, the assessment is objective: did the employer’s actions, objectively viewed, amount to a dismissal? For there to be a resignation, there needs to be an objective basis for concluding the employee resigned as well as a subjective intention to resign.
Because of this distinction, the truck driver was found to have been dismissed and was awarded 15 months of severance pay.