Pubdate: Wed, 01 Mar 2017
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Michele Mandel
Page: 4


It seems the TTC union protests too much.

What exactly are they afraid of? Why are they so opposed to random
drug and alcohol testing that they were in court Tuesday seeking an
injunction to stop management from starting the testing on April 1?

London has it. So does New York City and Sydney. If they are
responsible for millions of passenger trips a years, why shouldn't
they be willing to abide by the strictest measurements of sobriety on
the job?

The TTC's alarming statistics are certainly not in their favour: There
were 5,000 preventable collisions between 2012 and 2016 and more than
100 positive tests for drugs or alcohol during the same period.

TTC CEO Andy Byford believes the numbers are only on the

In 2015, there were three TTC bus collisions causing passenger
injuries where the drivers tested positive for drugs, including
codeine, cocaine and undisclosed medical marijuana.

"I cannot and will not ignore the risk that this creates for our
customers, our employees and members of the public," Byford said in a
court-filed affidavit.

The push for random drug testing followed the tragic death of
passenger Jadranka Petrova. The mother of two was killed after her
Lawrence Ave E. bus slammed into the back of a flatbed truck in August
2011. The bus driver, who passed a breathalyzer but refused a drug
test, was later charged with criminal negligence causing death and
possession of marijuana.

But the union argues that even the impetus for the transit agency's
proposal doesn't hold up to scrutiny: The charges against the driver
were ultimately stayed and he was cleared of any wrongdoing in
relation to the accident.

Meanwhile, the two sides have been fighting about drug testing ever
since. Arbitration began in 2011 - and it's still not done. Tired of
waiting, the TTC wants to move forward.

"Enough's enough," said their lawyer Paul Schabas.

Until now, mandatory drug tests are only triggered in certain cases
including new hires, after accidents, following treatment or if a
supervisor suspects impairment. From October 2010 and December 2016,
the TTC documented 141 incidents where it either suspected or
confirmed alcohol or drug use on the job - about two cases a month.
There were 45 additional reports of employees using or trafficking in
drugs at work.

If that weren't enough - at least 15 operators were also charged by
police with impaired driving. Sure looks like a problem. "There is a
culture of drug and alcohol use at the TTC, particularly in certain
large complexes and in TTC yards," TTC investigator Staff-Sgt. Mark
Russell said in the factum filed with the court.

The union argues there is no systemic problem and the TTC's statistics
are artificially inflated to make them look as "scary" as possible.
For example, they say, the agency counts refusals to submit to testing
as positives.

"These numbers are inaccurate and misleading," union lawyer Clayton
Ruby told the court.

But his strongest argument is a 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of
Canada striking down attempts by Irving Pulp and Paper to introduce
random testing. The judges found that violating a person's privacy can
only be justified in extreme circumstances where there's compelling,
hard evidence of intense safety risk due to a serious, ongoing issue.

"We have no such problem," Ruby told associate chief justice Frank
Marrocco. There is "no out of control workplace, no increased risk to

There's also no trustworthy way to accurately determine if someone's
impaired by drugs, says union boss Bob Kinnear.

"The testing is inconclusive, the science community doesn't accept the
conclusions of a swab test for impairment. It puts 11,000 employees in
jeopardy of losing their employment if they potentially have a false
positive test," said Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union
Local 113.

"What the TTC is asking us to do is accept the testing in good faith
and expect that they're going to get it right every single time. And
the moment they don't get it right, it's going to be someone's job."

Yet under the proposed policy, even Byford would be subject to random
testing. Why doesn't he have a problem with it?

The hearing continues Wednesday.
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MAP posted-by: Matt