The Canadian Press

Alberta’s top court upholds injunction against drug testing of Suncor workers 2012

This ruling is considered a small victory by the union battling over testing since

The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld an injunction that stops random drug and alcohol testing at Suncor Energy sites in the northeastern part of province.

In a two-to-one decision, the court dismissed the appeal by Calgary-based Suncor, which has been arguing for years that random tests are needed to bolster safety at its projects near Fort McMurray.

RELATED: Consider workplace safety in legalized marijuana rules, groups urge

A Court of Queen’s Bench judge granted the injunction last December, pending an arbitration hearing, after the union representing about 3,000 oilsands workers in the region requested one.

“We are not persuaded of any reviewable error in the chambers judge’s exercise of discretion,” said the Appeal court decision released Wednesday.

Suncor and Unifor Local 707-A have been battling over random testing since 2012, when the company announced it was going to start the practise. The union argues that it violates workers’ rights and privacy.

That same year, the union was granted its first injunction pending an arbitration hearing into a grievance about the testing.

Arbitration has basically been ongoing ever since. A judicial review set aside an arbitration award and ordered a hearing before a new panel. The Appeal Court previously upheld that ruling.

The union is now waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court of Canada will weigh in on the case.

“It will set precedent for sure if we’re able to get there,” said Ken Smith, president of Unifor Local 707-A.

He called Wednesday’s ruling a small victory.

“It’s one more legal hurdle that we’ve gotten by and it’s one more panel that has upheld the decision that this strikes at the dignity and respect of workers,” Smith said.

The Appeal ruling said the crux of the case is balancing safety against privacy interests.

Two judges noted that while there is clearly a safety issue, random testing would target about 1,339 employees per year or 104 per month.

“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 wrote in his dissenting opinion that Suncor’s “concerns about substance abuse are not just hypothetical.”

Some workers have tested positive for drugs including cocaine and opiates, he said, and security officers have not only discovered drugs but also fake urine, urine tampering devices and weapons.

Slater said he would have allowed Suncor’s appeal and set aside the injunction.

Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said the company is reviewing the Appeal decision and assessing its options. It has been trying to address safety concerns posed by drugs and alcohol over the last 20 years, she said, but no other measures have appropriately mitigated the risk.

“We care about the people at our site. We want to ensure we send folks home at the end of their shift,” Seetal said.

“We wouldn’t be pursuing this if we didn’t feel it was absolutely necessary.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Dramatic undersupply’ of workers in Parksville Qualicum Beach: new labour report

Analysis supports what many already know, reinforces need for action: Burden

Outreach group ordered to stop feeding homeless on City of Parksville property

City issued Manna Homeless Society cease and desist order after complaints from public

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

Discarded needles, theft from homes and businesses keep Oceanside RCMP hopping

Crime report also includes cannabis-related infraction

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Canucks’ 50/50 jackpot expected to surpass $1 million

The guaranteed prize for one lucky winner will be $500,000 minimum when Vancouver hosts LA Nov 27

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

Most Read