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5,000 litres of B.C. wine down the drain: Okanagan man loses grievance to be rehired by winery

A Kelowna man was fired from Mission Hill winery after spilling more than 5 thousand litres of wine down the drain. It was his second such accident at the job.

An Okanagan man who was dismissed from a local winery when more than 5,000 litres of wine went down a floor drain won’t be getting his job back.

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The incident happened at Mission Hill Winery on Nov. 19, 2018, according to documents, with the total loss of wine amounting to 5,680 litres of sauvignon blanc.

That wine loss, according to the West Kelowna winery, amounted to an estimated 630 cases — or $162,464.40 in retail value.

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One month after the sauvignon spillage, on Dec. 17, employee Brent Crozier was hand-delivered a dismissal letter which said he was being terminated with cause in relation to the incident.

The local branch of the Service Employees International Union grieved the termination, with a labour arbitration ruling ultimately favouring Mission Hill.

The 2019 hearings took place Oct. 29-30 in Kelowna, and Nov. 19 in Vancouver.

In an 18-page decision that was rendered on Dec. 30, 2019, arbitrator Nicholas Glass said Mission Hill’s disciplinary response was not excessive and dismissed the grievance.

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Glass noted that Crozier was “was guilty of the same culpable negligence twice in about 18 months, resulting in the only two occasions in the history of the employer’s cellar operations when product has been lost by flushing down an open drain.”

Specifically, Glass said in 2017 that Crozier “made the same mistake and flushed 11,000 litres of wine down the drain.”

The document said Crozier showed remorse for the 2018 incident, and that he apologized at least twice.

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It also said Crozier noted that the workload and pressures were pretty big at that time of the year, adding he worked weekends and through the week, and that his overtime total during that period was 257 hours.

“He stated that during this period there were more opportunities for errors,” Glass said in the ruling.

READ MORE: Country club drops waiter from $30K lawsuit after he spilled wine on Hermès bag

The incident involved transferring the sauvignon blanc from one tank to another.

The document said water is first transferred from tank to tank to flush and ensure the lines are properly connected, and if they are, the wine flows. The tanks range in size from 100 to 100,000 litres.

Part of Crozier’s job included checking the lines during transfer every 15 minutes. The document said a valve had not been closed, and that it was left open.

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Crozier, said the document, forgot to change the valve over.

Twenty minutes into the estimated 30-minute tank transfer, the document said Crozier noticed wine going onto the floor and down the drain before changing the valve over.

“I was freaking out,” he stated. “I could not believe I forgot to change over the valve.”

“When the product was sent [to the tank], it went to the diverter and out to the floor down the drain. Total loss was 5,680 litres of Mission Hill Estate sauvignon blanc,” said the report.
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Glass said “the grievor repeated in his evidence that he felt horrible about the whole thing. He would be more attentive and more careful in the future and take more time to make sure he was doing the job properly.

“When asked where he would be willing to work if he was reinstated, he stated, ‘I’ll go wherever they want me to go.’”

Glass said he was “struck by the magnitude of the grievor’s carelessness in 2017 and the disastrous consequences of it, which should have impressed upon him the importance of applying himself conscientiously to his duties, but which clearly had no effect because he was guilty of the same negligent misconduct with similar disastrous consequences in 2018.”

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For more on the labour arbitration ruling, click here.

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