Teck continues random drug testing at Elk Valley coal mines

The United Steel Workers local 9346 (Elkview) took Teck Coal Ltd.’s drug and alcohol testing policy to the Court of Appeal.

The United Steel Workers local 9346 (Elkview) took Teck Coal Ltd.’s drug and alcohol testing policy to the Court of Appeal while the issue is before the Labour Relations Board in efforts to halt the testing in the interim. On Nov. 12, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal for an interim injunction on Teck’s drug and alcohol policy on the grounds that the Labour Relations Board has jurisdiction on the matter. That means Teck can continue to randomly test employees for drug use at five of the open pit coalmine facilities in the Elk Valley while the matter is currently before the Labour Relations Board.

The Court of Appeal made no determination as to the actual injunction, or the merits of the case, or any other determination regarding the legality of random testing. They simply decided they did not have the jurisdiction to even look at the injunction case, and decided it belonged before the Labour Board where it now currently resides.

“Its unfortunate the Court of Appeal has refused jurisdiction,” said Alex Hanson, president of United Steelworkers Local 9346. “We do have another appeal before the Labour Board. We continue to believe the Arbitrator committed fundamental errors in his decision not to grant us an injunction as happened in Alberta with the Suncor injunction.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled this type of testing is not permissible except under extreme conditions which do not exist in our mines. We are asking the Labour Board act quickly to hear our appeal.

“Teck has never produced any evidence of any danger and continues to promulgate speculative fear as the reason behind its unreasonable and unjustified gross violation of the privacy rights of its workers.”

Curiously, Teck does not do random drug testing at its copper mine in Kamloops or its smelter in Trail.

When asked why Teck has a policy to do random drug testing at the Elk Valley coal mines but not at its copper mine or smelter, Chris Stannell, Senior Communications Specialist Teck Resources Ltd. said, “The focus of our random drug and alcohol policy is currently at our coal operations and we are closely monitoring the program. We continue working towards having our arbitration case heard as quickly as possible.”

While another appeal by USW Local 9346 under Section 100 is before the Labour Relations Board, Teck can continue to randomly test its Elk Valley employees for drugs and alcohol.

Teck introduced its new drug and alcohol testing policy for union review in November 2012; the Union filed a grievance under the labour relations context. Teck implemented its new policy in December 2012.