Suncor, and Unifor Local 707, have been battling over random drug testing in Alberta for six years. Most recently, in December of 2017, Justice Paul Belzil stated that the privacy rights of the employees are just as important as safety, and Suncor immediately appealed.
“The request by Suncor to increase the scope of drug and alcohol testing by implementing random testing would necessarily impact employees who have no drug and alcohol issues and who have not been involved in workplace incidents.” Justice Paul Belzil
Suncor has argued since 2012 that there is proof of a drug and alcohol problem within Suncor; 3 deaths and 2,276 “security incidents” involving drugs and/or alcohol. In this most recent two-to-one decision the two judges in favour of the injunction in fact agreed with this assessment, noting that there is clearly a safety issue at Suncor. However, they felt that since the random testing would affect about 1,339 employees per year, or 104 per month, it constituted an invasion of privacy for those who do not have alcohol or drug issues, stating,
“It is therefore conceivable that some union employees would be forced to comply with multiple tests within the same month… constituting a significant intrusion on their privacy, dignity and bodily integrity.”
Justice Frans Slater, the voice of dissent in the decision making process, stated that the “concerns about substance abuse are not just hypothetical” within Suncor. The justice noted that there have been workers who tested positive for drugs including cocaine and opiates and that security officers have found not only drugs on sites, but also fake urine and urine tampering devices.
Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said that the company is reviewing the decision and looking at their options for how to deal with this safety concern, something the company has now been trying to deal with for twenty years.
“We care about the people at our site. We want to ensure we send folks home at the end of their shift, we wouldn’t be pursuing this if we didn’t feel it was absolutely necessary.” Suncor spokeswoman, Sneh Seetal