In a surprising memo sent out early this week, the Toronto Transit Commission’s CEO Andy Byford informed employees that random drug and alcohol testing will begin once more. Although the TTC has been embroiled in a five year-long arbitration with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 with regard to their fitness-for-duty policy, they are moving forward with a random drug and alcohol testing even though the arbitration has not been settled.
Byford wrote in his letter that although there was ongoing arbitration with respect to the fitness-for-duty policy that “given the seriousness of this issue… how do we not strengthen our existing fitness-for-duty policy with a proven deterrence of random testing?”
“We’re seeing increased instances of positive test results for both drugs and alcohol and that’s not acceptable,” spokesman Ross said. “We need to ensure we have a safe transit system.”
In 2010 the TTC began using drug and alcohol testing in situations where there was reasonable cause to suspect impairment, if an employee was involved in an accident, or when an employee was returning to work after being treated for an addiction issue. At that time, the random programme was rejected by the union and the arbitration began. However, since the number of incidents involving drugs and alcohol was on the rise, the TTC decided to move ahead with securing funding for the random programme. TTC spokesman Brad Ross said 15 employees failed drug and alcohol tests in 2014 and 57 in 2015. This upward trend looks to be continuing in 2016 with 28 failed tests already just in the first three months. These results include not only those employees who tested positive, but also those who refused testing, which is considered to be a failed test.
Recently, the board of directors approved funding for the random drug and alcohol testing programme, and as a result, Byford says they will be taking the next few months to finalize the programme which includes hiring a third-party administrator to implement the testing. There has been some speculation that the random testing programme will affect all TTC employees, drivers and executives alike, however, it is unlikely that the Ontario Human Rights Commission will allow the testing of employees that are not performing a safety-sensitive job function.
The TTC has not yet finalized many important aspects of its drug testing programme, including the cost and frequency of testing and the percentage of employees tested annually. But it seems likely that at this time, based on the information DATAC has obtained, that the programme will utilize laboratory-based oral fluid drug testing and on-site breath or oral fluid alcohol testing.
Byford worked hard to make it clear that the TTC is only concerned with what is happening on the job. “Random testing — and this is important — only tests for impairment at work,” Byford wrote. “What you do on your own time is none of our business as long as it doesn’t affect your ability to do your job. What you do at work however is very much our business.”
Byford also called for changes to Ontario legislation stating in his memo that the TTC would be “asking the province of Ontario to consider legislation making random testing mandatory for public transit agencies, as is the case in the United States.”
This call for legislation speaks to the much larger issue of Canada lacking regulation in regards to drug and alcohol testing. The lack of Canadian federal or provincial oversight continues to cause issues within both the public and private sectors as employers continue to wade through uncharted waters. DATAC supports the TTC’s move to implement a random drug and alcohol testing programme with hopes that it will stimulate conversation regarding both the safety of employees and the public as well as forming legislation to regulate testing in Canada.