Pubdate: Tue, 19 Apr 2016
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Page: GT1
Copyright: 2016 The Toronto Star
Author: Oliver Sachgau


CEO Tells Workers Arbitration On Issue Was 'taking Far Too Long' To Finish

After years of being stuck in arbitration, the Toronto Transit 
Commission (TTC) is moving ahead on random alcohol and drug testing 
of its employees.

In a letter to employees sent Monday morning, TTC CEO Andy Byford 
said the TTC board approved the funding for random drug testing at 
its March 23 board hearing.

The TTC, which continues to see "instances of impairment while at 
work," according to Byford, will also be asking the Ontario 
government to make random drug testing mandatory for public transit agencies.

Random drug testing has been part of the "fitness for duty" policy 
since 2011, but funding wasn't approved at some point and the issue 
went into a lengthy arbitration process between the TTC and 
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, the TTC's largest union.

The move was sparked by an August 2011 bus crash that killed a TTC 
rider and injured 11 others. The bus driver was charged with 
negligence and possession of cannabis, but was not found to be impaired.

In the letter, Byford said the TTC is now working to finalize the 
program over the coming months, despite the ongoing arbitration.

"Given the seriousness of this issue - it is, after all, a workplace 
and public safety matter - the arbitration process is taking far too 
long to conclude," Byford said in his letter.

Since 2010, when the fitness for duty regime was first implemented, 
the TTC has seen "continued instances of impairment while at work," 
Byford said in his letter. "That is simply unacceptable." The random 
tests would determine only whether an employee was impaired at the 
time of the test, and not whether employees consume drugs or alcohol 
in general, Byford stressed.

"What you do on your own time is none of our business, so long as it 
doesn't affect your ability to do your job," he said in the letter.

The move was swiftly criticized by ATU Local 113 president Bob 
Kinnear, who said he had only been informed of the TTC's decision on 
Monday afternoon, during a labour board hearing.

"That's not reflective of a co-operative relationship, when they give 
you a verbal warning before they know it's going to get out," Kinnear said.

Kinnear said he was disappointed that the TTC is side-stepping the 
arbitration process.

"It would seem to me the TTC is taking the position that they're 
going to ignore our collective agreement. They're going to 
arbitrarily impose whatever working conditions and provisions that 
they feel like," he said.

The union will ask the arbitrator for an injunction on random drug 
testing, but if that doesn't go through, the union is willing to take 
the issue to court, Kinnear said.

"There is a lot of discontent amongst our members, and they are 
extremely frustrated. I can only imagine to what level that 
frustration is going to escalate to once the members find out this," 
he said. TTC spokesman Brad Ross said random drug testing has been 
approved since 2011 and the reason it hadn't been implemented yet was 
more the lack of funding than the ongoing arbitration.

Ross said he's willing to see the issue go to court if that's what 
the union wants, as it will probably take less time to resolve there 
than in arbitration.

"We feel as an organization that we need to get on with it," Ross said.

"If the union decides the courts is where they want to go with it . . 
. then perhaps that is the better place for it to be tested." 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D