Pubdate: Tue, 04 Sep 2012
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2012 Osprey Media
Vincent McDermott


The union representing more than 3,000 Suncor employees has filed a
grievance against the company, opposing a pilot safety program that
would introduce random drug and alcohol tests on workers.

While arbitration is pending, the Communications Energy and
Paperworkers Union Local 707 is prepared to drag the issue before the
Supreme Court of Canada.

"We have told the company that our interests are to get to the
arbitration process as soon as possible, before the implementation
date, so we can get a ruling prior to that," said Roland Lefort,
President of CEP Local 707 in Fort McMurray. "If they have no
intention of going to arbitration before that date, then we will seek
an injunction to prevent implementation through the provincial courts."

The program is scheduled to begin on Oct. 15.

Lefort says the union has also applied for intervenor status on a case
currently being heard by the nation's top court, which is expected to
rule on random narcotic testing.

That case dates back to 2006, when a paper mill in New Brunswick
imposed mandatory random alcohol testing for its employees.

CEP Local 30, which represents those workers, argued the policy was
degrading, unfairly pitting the privacy of workers against an
employer's mandate to provide a safe workplace.

If CEP Local 707 is granted intervenor, the Fort McMurray union would
be allowed to join the litigation process.

"That ruling is either going to make us or break us. We will feel the
impacts. Everyone will," said Lefort. "So it is in our best interest
to have intervenor status. We want to participate in that hearing to
extend the arguments to what is happening here in Alberta."

In June, representatives from Alberta's energy and construction
industry announced that they would participate in a two-year pilot
project titled the Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Pilot Program.

DARRPP will report its findings and recommendations to the province -
as well as participating stakeholders and companies - in 2014. Other
participating companies include Canadian Natural Resources Limited,
the Oil Sands Safety Association, the Construction Owners Association
of Alberta and Total E&P Canada.

However, CEP has opposed the plan, arguing that random testing brings
more harm than good to workplace culture.

"We understand there's a big drug and alcohol problem in the oilsands
and Fort McMurray. We don't condone that activity and we understand
it's a concern," said CEP Western Region Vice-President Jim Britton.
"But this is a privacy issue. It's degrading and we'd rather see
companies be proactive than reactive."

CEP is no stranger to privacy issues and drug testing in the
workplace. In 2009, CEP Local 900, which represents workers at an oil
refinery in Ontario, successfully convinced the province's top court
that companies cannot, without reasonable cause, enforce drug tests on
workers performing safety-sensitive jobs.

In Alberta, testing has become commonplace in the oil industry. In
some cases, employees face tests before they are even offered hired or
allowed onto a worksite.

Lefort agrees with Britton's sentiments, but feels that testing could
spark a debate on privacy issues in the workplace.

"If people believe that this will start and finish right here with
this program, well, think again," he said. "The bigger oil companies,
they were the first to introduce pre-employment testing, stuff like
sniffer dogs and post-incident testing. Now those things are all over
the workplace."
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