Suncor’s random drug and alcohol testing violated workers’ rights

Arbitration panel upholds ban on company’s random testing

The random drug and alcohol testing of employees at a Suncor site outside of Fort McMurray, Alta., was found to violate the fundamental rights of workers to privacy, respect and dignity in the workplace.

“Random drug testing of workers that have done nothing wrong is a violation of their basic rights,” said Roland Lefort, president of Unifor Local 707A. “We will work with Suncor to achieve the highest possible levels of workplace safety with education and prevention, not invasive medical procedures.”

The ruling — released on March 26 — was the result of Unifor’s grievance against Suncor’s Oil Sands Operations after the company announced the unilateral implementation of random drug and alcohol testing in 2012. Unifor was granted an injunction to block the random testing until the case could be heard by an arbitration panel.

The arbitration was conducted over the course of 23 days, during which time the board heard from 19 witnesses.

“In the safety sensitive world at Suncor’s Oil Sands Operations, there is no excuse for working under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the board stated in its ruling.

However, based on the evidence provided, the board found Suncor did not have sufficient basis to justify random drug or alcohol testing. The board ruled the workplace lacked an “out-of-control” culture with respect to drugs and alcohol that would have justified the imposition of random testing.

The board therefore found Suncor’s imposition of a random drug and alcohol testing policy was an unreasonable exercise of management rights.

Suncor’s previously existing drug and alcohol policy — unaffected by the ongoing litigation — includes post-incident and reasonable cause testing.

“There is no evidence that random testing improves safety, which is why Unifor is committed to more reliable methods to keep our members safe on the job while respecting the dignity of our members,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias.

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