News briefs

Size of award for insensitive firing unexpected; Wal-Mart employees unionize in B.C.; Forestry worker death rate prompts work-stoppage threat; Business school drops fraudster's name; Protecting company secrets at the subatomic level

Size of award for insensitive firing unexpected
Halifax — A jury in Nova Scotia has awarded a woman 52 months’ pay in lieu of notice for the way Richmond, B.C.-based CHC Helicopters terminated her employment. The jury said Wendy Jessop was wrongfully dismissed. It awarded her four months’ pay in lieu of notice, tacking on an additional 48 months in Wallace damages (as punitive damages for callously handled terminations are known). CHC Helicopters has appealed the decision on the grounds it is excessive. Grant Machum, a senior partner with Stewart McKelvey Stirling Scales in Halifax, said nobody expects the 48-month notice extension to stand up to the Court of Appeal’s scrutiny. “The jury in this case appears to have misunderstood the purpose of reasonable notice, which is not to penalize the employer for terminating an employee,” said Machum. An earlier ruling in Nova Scotia seemed to set the maximum period of reasonable notice at 24 months.

Wal-Mart employees unionize in B.C.
Cranbrook, B.C. — The majority of workers at a Cranbrook Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express (TLE) voted to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union last month. In B.C., when a majority votes to unionize, the British Columbia Labour Board can certify the workplace as a union shop and certify the union as the agent for collective bargaining. Applications to certify two other Wal-Mart TLEs in Surrey, B.C. are currently before the labour board.

Forestry worker death rate prompts work-stoppage threat
Vancouver — Twenty-seven forestry workers have died so far this year in British Columbia and loggers say they are prepared to take action to get government, companies and the public to demand health and safety improvements. The Steelworkers Union passed a resolution calling on forestry workers to withdraw their services for a day of mourning following every workplace death in the industry.

Business school drops fraudster’s name
Kingston, Ont. — Queen’s University will remove convicted former Hollinger International executive David Radler’s name from its hallowed halls. Radler has pleaded guilty for his part in defrauding Hollinger of millions of dollars. Queen’s will return the more than $900,000 Radler donated and take his name off The Radler Business Wing.

Protecting company secrets at the subatomic level
Toronto — A new data encryption technique promises to be unbreakable, no matter how powerful a hacker’s computer may be. Quantum cryptography will transmit encryption keys over optical fibres with each bit in the key represented by one photon — the most basic element of light. Quantum theory states that at the subatomic level you cannot observe a particle without altering it in a detectable way, so even if someone intercepts the key while in transmission, the interception would be detected and compensated for.

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