The Canadian Press

Alberta’s top court upholds injunction against drug testing of Suncor workers 2012

This ruling is considered a small victory by the union battling over testing since

The Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld an injunction that stops random drug and alcohol testing at Suncor Energy sites in the northeastern part of province.

In a two-to-one decision, the court dismissed the appeal by Calgary-based Suncor, which has been arguing for years that random tests are needed to bolster safety at its projects near Fort McMurray.

RELATED: Consider workplace safety in legalized marijuana rules, groups urge

A Court of Queen’s Bench judge granted the injunction last December, pending an arbitration hearing, after the union representing about 3,000 oilsands workers in the region requested one.

“We are not persuaded of any reviewable error in the chambers judge’s exercise of discretion,” said the Appeal court decision released Wednesday.

Suncor and Unifor Local 707-A have been battling over random testing since 2012, when the company announced it was going to start the practise. The union argues that it violates workers’ rights and privacy.

That same year, the union was granted its first injunction pending an arbitration hearing into a grievance about the testing.

Arbitration has basically been ongoing ever since. A judicial review set aside an arbitration award and ordered a hearing before a new panel. The Appeal Court previously upheld that ruling.

The union is now waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court of Canada will weigh in on the case.

“It will set precedent for sure if we’re able to get there,” said Ken Smith, president of Unifor Local 707-A.

He called Wednesday’s ruling a small victory.

“It’s one more legal hurdle that we’ve gotten by and it’s one more panel that has upheld the decision that this strikes at the dignity and respect of workers,” Smith said.

The Appeal ruling said the crux of the case is balancing safety against privacy interests.

Two judges noted that while there is clearly a safety issue, random testing would target about 1,339 employees per year or 104 per month.

“It is therefore conceivable that some union employees would be forced to comply with multiple tests within the same month … constituting a significant intrusion on their privacy, dignity and bodily integrity.”

Justice Frans Slater wrote in his dissenting opinion that Suncor’s “concerns about substance abuse are not just hypothetical.”

Some workers have tested positive for drugs including cocaine and opiates, he said, and security officers have not only discovered drugs but also fake urine, urine tampering devices and weapons.

Slater said he would have allowed Suncor’s appeal and set aside the injunction.

Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said the company is reviewing the Appeal decision and assessing its options. It has been trying to address safety concerns posed by drugs and alcohol over the last 20 years, she said, but no other measures have appropriately mitigated the risk.

“We care about the people at our site. We want to ensure we send folks home at the end of their shift,” Seetal said.

“We wouldn’t be pursuing this if we didn’t feel it was absolutely necessary.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fernie man receives federal fire service medal

Kim Sedrovic is retiring from Fernie Fire Rescue after 25 years with the service

Thrift shop turns five

Elk Valley Thrift Shop Society has raised $370,000 since inception

Elk Valley mayors to lead hospital district board

Dean McKerracher, David Wilks elected to Kootenay East Regional Hospital District Board

Rezoning paves way for next stages of Montane Fernie

Multi-family units, cottages, recreational facilities planned as part of multimillion-dollar project

Ghostriders defuse Dynamiters at home

Game 13 proves unlucky for Mountain division leaders Kimberley

Lawyer for Chinese exec detained by Canada says it’s ‘inconceivable’ she would flee

Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Minister appoints former CIRB chair to resolve Canada Post labour dispute

Postal workers engaged in weeks of rotating walkouts

Most Read