Pubdate: Tue, 28 Feb 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Ben Spurr
Page: A1


Union slams allegations in court document as 'absolutely false'

The TTC's workforce has a substance abuse problem that could put
passengers and the public at serious risk if it's not addressed,
according to a court document filed by the transit agency.

But a representative of the union that represents TTC workers calls
the allegations of substance abuse "absolutely false."

In a factum the TTC submitted before a hearing this week on its
proposed random drug and alcohol testing policy, the agency said that
between October 2010 and December 2016 there were 291 incidents in
which employees' behaviour raised safety concerns. In almost half of
those, the TTC either suspected or confirmed drug or alcohol use.

A transit agency investigator concluded there was a "culture of drug
and alcohol use at the TTC" and reported 45 additional incidents of
employees using or trafficking alcohol or drugs while at work,
including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs such as

The agency said the results of 11,000 drug and alcohol tests of its
employees since 2010 "indicate that drug and alcohol use continues to
be a significant problem for the TTC, a threat to its safe operation
and to the safety of the public." "Each day without random testing
increases the risk of irreparable harm to employees, passengers, and
the public," the agency said.

The TTC submitted the 130-page document in response to a notice filed
by the transit agency's union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.
The union, which represents over 10,000 transit workers, is seeking an
injunction against the random drug testing policy that is slated to go
into effect on March 1. A two-day hearing on the issue begins Tuesday
at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In an interview, Kevin Morton, the secretary-treasurer of Local 113,
refuted the TTC's depiction of endemic drug and alcohol use among its

"We have the same issues as any organization - be it the police, fire,
newspapers - with regards to the normal distribution of people with
alcohol or drug problems," he said.

Morton said the union doesn't oppose the TTC's current substanceabuse
policies, which allow employees to be tested if there is "reasonable
cause" to believe they were impaired during a significant work-related

Employees who are returning to work after violating the policy or
undergoing addiction treatment are also subject to testing.

The new policy, which the TTC board first approved in 2011, would
allow management to test employees at random, using a breathalyzer to
detect alcohol or an oral swab for drug use. Workers in
"safety-sensitive" positions including vehicle operators, maintenance
workers and supervisors would be eligible for testing, as would some
management and executives.

The union argues the policy would violate employees' Charter right to
be protected from unreasonable search and seizure.

"We believe in incident-based testing. I shouldn't have to prove that
I am innocent of anything," Morton said. "I should be able to go to
work on the assumption that I'm honest and dependable and clean."

According to the TTC's factum, between October 2010 and December 2016
there were 70 instances in which employees either tested positive for
drug or alcohol use or refused to be tested following at-work
incidents or when management believed there was reasonable cause to
suspect impairment.

There were a further 46 incidents in which employees refused to be
tested when they returned to work after violating the drug and alcohol
policy or undergoing addiction treatment.

The factum also states that at least 15 transit operators "that the
TTC is aware of" were charged by police with impaired driving while at
the wheel of a private vehicle.

Although prospective employees are told that drug and alcohol testing
is part of the job application process, 187 applicants to
safety-sensitive positions returned positive drug tests.

Agency spokesperson Brad Ross said that despite the statistics,
transit riders shouldn't be afraid to ride the TTC.

"The TTC is safe, of course," he said in an email. But the new drug
policy would ensure it was "even safer."

"If (the TTC) is aware of incidents of impairment in the workplace, it
has a duty to act to protect its employees and the public, which it
has done here."
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