By October 4, 2017 Read More →

Unifor vows to fight Alberta court decision on random drug testing at Suncor operations


Unifor vows to fight courts decision on random drug testing

Suncor not currently doing random drug tests

Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, is disappointed that the Alberta Court of Appeal failed to strike down random drug and alcohol testing of members at Suncor oil sands operations in northern Alberta, a policy the union believes is a gross violation of worker’s rights, according to a press release.

“This ruling supports an invasive and degrading policy that violates the fundamental rights of workers. Safety is always our first priority but we know that random drug testing does not reduce accidents or improve safety,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

In 2012, Suncor announced the implementation of random drug and alcohol testing in its oil sands operations.

Unifor filed a grievance and in March 2014 an Arbitration Panel ruled that Suncor’s proposed random testing violated workers’ rights.


Suncor applied for a judicial review in May, 2016 and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench quashed the arbitration decision and submitted the union’s grievance to a new arbitration panel.

The union then appealed the Queen’s Bench decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which rendered its decision Thursday to support the previous ruling of May, 2016.

“We’re pleased that the Court of Appeal has unanimously ruled in Suncor’s favour, upholding the Court of Queen’s Bench decision to dismiss the decision of the arbitrators and have the hearing on Suncor’s Random Drug and Alcohol Testing Standard be re-heard by a new arbitration panel. Nothing is more important than protecting ourselves and others from harm, which is why safety is our core, and why we are pleased with this decision,” according to a Suncor statement.

While Suncor is not currently doing random drug testing, the company believes testing will make oil sands operations safer.

“We have a comprehensive alcohol and drug program that includes education, training, support for employees and testing pre-hire and post incident. We strongly believe this program(random drug testing) will contribute to a safer workplace and ultimately save lives,” said Nicole Fischer, spokesperson for Suncor.

The union vows to continue its fight against random testing.

“We will take all available action to fight this abusive policy, including a potential motion to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Ken Smith, president of Local 707A.

“Introducing this standard is absolutely necessary to address alcohol and drug related safety concerns in a region that has faced injuries – and even fatalities – where drugs or alcohol were involved,” Fischer concluded.

Model 3

Unifor says they remain committed to working with Suncor to develop effective safety programs that have a demonstrable impact on safety and respect the rights of employees.

Our readers weighed in on the issue:

“Too many accidents in this industry caused by people being impaired. If a patient requires a particular drug to get better and it could possibly show up on a random drug test, all they need to do is carry a note from the doctor as to why they are taking it, for how long and any other information regarding the drug.. No problems. Totally agree with it. Once it’s legalized then we will have to cross that bridge then, but until it is, it’s an illegal substance unless you have a medical certificate with a license from the government to possess 2 oz for personal use. If people have nothing to hide, then I can’t see the problem.” – Michelle Jones

“Absolutely against. Anti-depressants can show up as opiates, as I found out years ago on a trip to the USA. If it is suspected an employee is under the influence, a drug test is fine. But random tests for no reason, where prescriptions and/or over the counter allergy pills can appear as an opiate? NO!” – Kari Ledgerwood

“As long as the CEO and management structure will also be participating in the drug testing I have no problem with it!” – Steve Bentley

“Drug testing has become a substitute for human resources management in part because unions make it difficult to fire problematic employees unless a safety argument can be made, regardless of how flimsy that argument might be.” – Matthew Johnston

“In my opinion, drug testing (random or otherwise) is perfectly legit (and necessary) if there is a bona fide job-related risk (e.g. we can’t have people under the influence operating heavy equipment). it’s not legit if it’s not; e.g. testing office workers for alcohol or drug use, *unless*, perhaps, for remote field sites where workers stay… i think companies have the right to establish rules for their camps (e.g. no alcohol or drug use), which means they should be able to test for it.” – Steve Ricketts 


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Posted in: Jude on Alberta

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