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Suncor to reinstate random drug testing Dec. 1 for ‘safety sensitive’ oil sands jobs

SuncorBuilding Trades of Alberta seeking collaborate solution, Unifor hopes to challenge Suncor in Supreme Court of Canada

Suncor Energy is planning to re-instate random drug testing of oil sands employees on Dec. 1, according to an internal memo obtained by Energi News, which has a national union seeking leave to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Suncor

Ken Smith, Unifor.

Unifor local 707A, which represents 3,000 company employees, is also trying to obtain a court injunction to stop the energy giant from beginning testing again later this week. Suncor announced testing in 2012 and two years later an Arbitration Panel supported a Unifor grievance that random testing violated workers’ rights. In early Oct. the Alberta Court of Appeal failed to reverse that decision.

“The union is seeking an injunction based on the rights of a person to dignity and privacy,” Ken Smith, president of Unifor local 707A, told CBC.

Suncor circulated a memo dated Oct. 19 citing the arbitration panel’s decision and stating its intention to implement random drug testing.

“We recognize this is a significant change for employees and leaders,” he memo says. “Despite our continued efforts to mitigate the risk of alcholol and drugs, the evidence of alcohol and drug use we’ve found on our sites reflected a continued safety risk we simply can’t ignore.”

The company says safety incidents include “life altering injuries, fatalities, an alarming number of ongoing positive tests, as well as hundreds of security incidents,” which include impaired driving, drug seizures, and finding “drugs and drug paraphernalia.”

Terry Parker is the executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta, which represents many of the Suncor workers who will be affected by the testing decision.

Suncor

Terry Parker, Building Trades of Alberta.

He says his union works with its business partners in a “collaborative approach” to create a safe working environment.

“We have been working closely with Suncor to develop an alcohol and drug policy that meets the needs of all stakeholders,” he wrote in an email.

“We take great pride in our ability to operate as a partner with the owners and contractors in Alberta, and are confident that a satisfactory solution to the issue of alcohol and drug testing on work sites will be found.”

Suncor says all contractors will also be required to implement random testing. The company said it firmly believes that “random alcohol and drug testing is a necessary step to address the unacceptable and pressing safety concerns” at its oil sands operations.

Smith disagrees: “The safety of all can only be protected by policies that reflect appropriate and meaningful respect for the privacy and dignity of the workforce.”

Suncor did not respond to a request for comment.

Posted in: Canada

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