Alberta court says no to random drug testing at Suncor

Calgary based Suncor Energy Inc. has had another ruling regarding their ongoing proceedings with Northeastern Alberta’s, Unifor Local 707-A, which represents 3,000 oilsands workers. Suncor and the union have been battling it out in court since 2012 regarding the company’s right to have random drug testing in the workplace.

Suncor has argued, since the beginning, that there is a safety concern within the company that stems from the misuse of drugs and alcohol. The courts advised early on that for the random drug testing to be acceptable Suncor would have to show that there was a drug and alcohol problem within the company which was affecting workplace safety.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the decision, especially in light of the evidence that we put forward of the pressing safety concerns associated with the ongoing alcohol and drug problems in the workplace in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo” Sneh Seetal, Suncor spokeperson

The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that the dangerousness of the workplace only justifies testing of particular employees in certain circumstances (such as reasonable suspicion or post-incident) but that random testing by an employer is only justified when it has been shown that a drug and alcohol problem exists in the workplace and is impacting the safety of the workers.The court is looking for evidence that there is a drug and/or alcohol problem within the company and the size of the negative effect that would balance out the infringement on the privacy rights of Canadian citizens.

“We are very pleased with the ruling and that weight was given to a person’s dignity on the job and that human rights are being upheld for the time being” Ken Smith, President of the Union Local

In his ruling Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Belzil said the privacy rights of the employees are just as important as safety stating, “The request by Suncor to increase the scope of drug and alcohol testing my implementing random testing would necessarily impact employees who have no drug and alcohol issues and who have not been involved in workplace incidents.”

One has to wonder what would show there had been enough impact of drug and alcohol problem within the workplace considering Suncor is able to show statistics which includes three deaths in a seven-year period where drugs and alcohol were proven to be a factor, and between 2004 and August 2013 there were 2,276 “security incidents” involving drugs and alcohol, and 59 union employees testing positive for alcohol or drugs in the last four years. Suncor has also stated that numerous drugs including marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, crack and methamphetamine, and prescription pills such as oxycodone have been found at Suncor operations and base camps. It begs the question how many people have to die or be injured for it to be seen as enough of a problem to stop blocking random drug testing?

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