Pubdate: Thu, 11 May 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Benn Spurr
Page: A1


CEO says results 'concerning' but justify transit agency's push for
substance abuse checks

Well that didn't take long.

Two TTC employees have been suspended for being impaired on the job
after they both failed tests on the first day of the transit agency's
new random drug and alcohol testing program.

The first employee given a breathalyzer that morning blew over the
limit, according to agency spokesperson Brad Ross. The employee was
found to have a blood alcohol level of more than .04 per cent, which
the TTC considers impaired.

The results of a drug test for a second employee, who was tested
Monday for an undisclosed drug, came back positive two days later.

While Ross couldn't say which drug the worker had consumed, the test
detects several common intoxicants, including marijuana, cocaine,
opiates, amphetamines and PCP.

TTC chair Councillor Josh Colle called the results "really

"I certainly hope it's an aberration," he said.

The TTC began randomly testing its workers for substance abuse Monday,
with about eight workers arbitrarily selected, according to Ross.

Ross wouldn't give details about the employees, except to say that
neither was a driver or vehicle operator.

About 10,000 workers are eligible for testing because they hold
positions that the agency has deemed "safety-sensitive."

The two workers have been suspended with pay, but employees who
violate the policy can face additional discipline, including
dismissal. TTC CEO Andy Byford said the failed tests are "concerning"
but said that they show the transit agency's decision to implement the
controversial testing policy "is both justified and

"The TTC's only motivation in pressing for the introduction of random
testing to strengthen its existing fitness for duty policy was to
ensure that it is doing everything possible to keep the public and its
employees safe."

He added that he believes the "overwhelming majority" of TTC workers
are "transit professionals that attend work fit for duty."

Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local
113, which represents more than 10,000 TTC workers, told the Star "we
don't want anybody to come to work impaired."

But he denied the positive tests show there's a systemic substance
abuse problem at the TTC.

"I think the sample size is way too small," he said. "Call me in a
month." "You would have to do this for a long period of time and get a
huge sample size before you could make any comment."

Local 113 fought for years to block the TTC's attempts to implement
random testing, arguing that it would violate workers' rights. Last
month the Ontario Superior Court upheld the policy, however.

In its court filings, the transit agency cited evidence from a TTC
investigator who testified there was a "culture of drug and alcohol
use" among the workforce that was putting the public at risk.

The agency said that between 2010 and 2016 there were 291 documented
instances when employee behaviour raised safety concerns, and
substance abuse was suspected in almost half of them.

Under the new policy, the transit agency plans to test about 20 per
cent of workers in safety-sensitive and designated positions each year.

Employees are randomly selected by a computer program run by an
independent company near Cambridge. The TTC says it has no input into
which employees are chosen.

Workers in roughly 1,400 different TTC jobs are eligible for testing,
including everyone from bus, streetcar and subway operators to
janitors, solicitors, upholsterers, painters, auditors and token
machine attendants.

Certain management and executives are also eligible for testing,
including the CEO.

Morton, the Local 113 secretary-treasurer, questioned why employees in
so many different positions can be tested.

"I don't know how they consider a painter safety sensitive," he said.
"This is just a broad scoop of people to see how many people they can
get in."

He also questioned whether the TTC's standards might catch people who
aren't actually impaired, including workers who take prescription
medication or have only low levels of alcohol in their system.

According to the transit agency, any employee found at work with a
blood alcohol concentration of between .02 and .039 can be subject to
"progressive discipline," while anyone above .04 is considered impaired.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation considers drivers who register
levels of between .05 and .08 to be within the "warn range," while
anyone with a level higher than that can be criminally charged.

"No one wants anyone impaired at work. The question is, .02 to .039 an
impairment? It's not, legally," Morton said.

The TTC says the cutoff levels were "determined by experts" and
indicate recent use of drugs or alcohol while screening out things
like normal prescription drug use or secondhand marijuana smoke.

"The TTC believes these levels are necessary for the safety of all
workers, in addition to customers and the public," said Ross.
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