Pubdate: Fri, 08 Dec 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: John Cotter
Page: FP4


A union that represents 3,000 oilsands workers at Suncor Energy sites
i n northeastern Alberta has won a court injunction against random
drug testing.

Unifor Local 707- A had argued that random testing would be a
violation of workers' rights and privacy.

Calgary-based Suncor has said random tests are needed to bolster
safety and wanted to start the program this month.

In his ruling, Queen's Bench Justice Paul Belzil said the privacy
rights of employees are just as important as safety. "In my view the
balance of convenience favours granting the injunction," Belzil said
in a written judgment released Thursday.

"The request by Suncor to increase the scope of drug and alcohol
testing by implementing random testing would necessarily impact
employees who have no drug and alcohol issues and who have not been
involved in workplace incidents."

Belzil noted that Suncor already has non-random drug and alcohol
testing. He said granting the injunction would not result in an unsafe
work environment.

He said both parties agree that the Suncor workplace is dangerous, but
agree on virtually nothing else.

Sneh Seetal, a Suncor spokeswoman, s ai d t he company would be filing
an immediate and expedited appeal of the injunction ruling.

"We are surprised and disappointed by the decision, especially in
light of the evidence that we put forward of t he pressing safety
concerns associated with the ongoing alcohol and drug problems in the
workplace in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buff alo," Seetal said.
"Preventing Suncor from taking steps to address known safety hazards
associated with workplace alcohol and drug use is not

Ken Smith, president of the union local, said Unifor members are happy
with the judge's decision.

"We are very pleased with the ruling and that weight was given to a
person's dignity on the job and that human rights are being upheld for
the time being," he said from Fort McMurray.

"Worker safety is the No. 1 priority here."

Suncor and the union have been battling over random drug tests since
2012. Unifor has sought leave to appeal an earlier court ruling to the
Supreme Court of Canada.

Belzil said if leave to appeal is granted, both sides should
co-operate to resolve the case as quickly as possible.

If the high court decides not to hear the case, Suncor and Unifor
should go to arbitration, he suggested.

Suncor presented evidence in court last month that 59 union employees
have tested positive for alcohol or drugs over the last four years.

The company said drugs - including marijuana, ecstasy, cannabis resin,
cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine - and prescription pills such
as oxycodone have been found at Suncor operations and work camps.

The company's oilsands projects around Fort McMurray operate 24 hours
a day, every day of the year. Employees work 12- hour shifts operating
some of the biggest and most complicated industrial equipment in the
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