On October 5 of this year, Potanicals Green Growers laid off all nine employees of the Peachland operation, including the senior producer and chief safety officer, as noted in a recent decision by the BC Labor Relations Board. Eight members of staff remained on board.
The previous month, staff had voted to apply for union certification with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1518. But Potanicals told workers and the union that the staff were laid off due to the “financial circumstances” of the business.
Potanicals said the layoffs would be temporary, except for staff who had not completed their probationary periods. The company did not specify when it planned to rehire the others.
Benchmark, the parent company of Potanicals, posted an ad online two days later searching for 16 full-time general farm workers at the Peachland site. The company’s executive assistant, Kristy Xu, told the Labor Relations Board that the job offer was made in error.
Potanicals argued that he had just cause to fire the employees because of the “dire financial situation of the company”.
Financial records showed Potanicals suffered net losses every month in 2020, approaching profitability in September, where it lost around $ 5,000. Benchmark, meanwhile, has “suffered millions of dollars in losses over the course of its existence,” according to the Labor Board, while it “still had a considerable amount of cash on its books” as of June 30, 2020, largely thanks to its investors.
The union, meanwhile, argued that it made no sense for the company to fire its master producer and security chief if it was simply a financial issue, as both positions would have to be rehired to comply. Health Canada regulations.
« [The union] argues that the only logical explanation for the layoffs was that the employer believed they were union supporters and was shutting down union activities in his company, ”said Najeeb Hassan, vice-chairman of the Labor Commission , in his decision.
In the end, Hassan ruled that the company had violated the Labor Relations Code by sacking the nine employees, saying it was “motivated, at least in part, by the fact that the employees there had sought to be represented by a trade union ”.
“The employer’s still poor but seemingly manageable financial situation begs the question: why did he suddenly have to fire employees immediately after the certification vote? Said Hassan. “I came to the conclusion that he could have continued to ‘limp’ month to month without the layoffs, as he had done earlier in 2020.”
As a result, the Labor Commission ordered the rehiring of the nine employees and a copy of the decision sent to all company staff.