Pubdate: Sat, 22 Jun 2013
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2013 The Telegram
Author: Ashley Fitzpatrick


Sources Say Supreme Court Ruling Not an Issue for Local Operators

For the most part, workers at offshore oil installations and those 
busy building the Hebron gravity based structure at the Bull Arm 
fabrication site are not being subjected to random drug and alcohol testing.

The Telegram asked about the issue in response to a recent Supreme 
Court of Canada ruling. The ruling was in relation to a dispute 
between Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Local 30 and Irving 
Pulp and Paper Ltd. and spoke specifically to previous decisions in 
the case from arbitrators and the lower courts.

In its 6-2 decision, the court ultimately said Irving Pulp and Paper 
Ltd. could not randomly test 10 per cent of its workers at a New 
Brunswick paper mill over the course of each year, to see if they are 
drunk on the job.

The issue is being argued as one of safety versus privacy.

"The dangerousness of a workplace is clearly relevant, but this does 
not shut down the inquiry, it begins the proportionality exercise," 
the June 14 ruling reads.

Over the course of the case, Irving noted there were eight 
alcohol-related incidents at the mill over a 15-year period, but the 
Supreme Court found that was not enough to bring in universal, random testing.

"In this case, the expected safety gains to the employer were found 
by the board to range from uncertain to minimal, while the impact on 
employee privacy was severe," the ruling states.

The decision comes at a time when Suncor Energy has proposed random 
drug tests for workers in western Canada.

That case is now in arbitration with the strongest union of Suncor 
workers, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Local 707.

When asked about the issue at the Noia oil and gas conference this 
week in St. John's, Suncor spokesman John Downton said the company is 
not randomly testing workers at the Terra Nova offshore oil project 
off Newfoundland and Labrador.

He said he was not aware of any random drug testing for provincial 
oil projects.

And following a tour of the Bull Arm Fabrication Site on Monday, to 
update construction of the Hebron gravity base structure, Hebron 
project lead Geoff Parker said he had not yet had time to look at the 
ruling in detail. Parker said he understood the ruling was about 
random drug and alcohol testing.

"So we're not doing random testing here at the moment," he said. 
"What we are doing is before anybody starts work here on the site, 
they're subject to drug and alcohol testing before they're employed 
and that's not affected by the court ruling as far as I know. And 
then during the ongoing work, if there's a reason to suspect that 
somebody might be under the influence of drugs and alcohol then we 
might do testing there."

Specifically, he said, someone involved in endangering other workers, 
in a safety incident, would be subject to testing. "And my 
understanding is that won't change as a result of any of these court 
rulings," he said.

Paul Barnes,a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum 
Producers (CAPP), said he was vaguely aware of the court case.

"Our industry doesn't do random drug tests. We do pre-employment drug 
tests, associated with pre-employment medical and - for certain 
positions that are safety-critical in the offshore - medicals need to 
be updated on a frequent basis," he said.

The difference between what has been proposed and the regular checks 
workers are currently being subjected to is simple: they are not random.

Even though random testing is not part of the equation at this point, 
prohibitions against alcohol and drug use are being supported in 
other ways. For example, the Bull Arm Fabrication Site is a dry site 
- - no alcohol allowed on location. "So you're not allowed to take your 
vehicle on site with a bottle of wine in it, for example," Parker 
explained. As well, signs with warnings against alcohol and drug use 
are posted around the site, including inside the 400-bed, on-site living area.

Meanwhile, the popular industry publication Alberta Oil has reported 
that discussion of the ruling within the legal community suggests the 
recent Supreme Court ruling does not permanently close the door on 
random drug and alcohol testing, since the ruling was, in many ways, 
case and site-specific.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom