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

Vancouver Island homeowners buy more earthquake insurance than the rest of B.C.

Insurance Bureau of Canada says that’s because the perception of risk is greater on the Island

Anxiety amongst voters on amalgamation referendum

Non-binding referendum asks Victoria and Saanich residents to endorse citizens’ assembly

District of Oak Bay issues notice to cease tent city

The notice is effective immediately

Missing 72-year-old man last seen in Langford

Albert Bedard has been missing since Oct. 12

Persons Day celebrates historic achievement of five suffragettes

Landmark case 89 years ago declared women “persons” making them eligible for the Senate

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

San Group announces plans to build new sawmill in Port Alberni

San Group has purchased 25 acres of Catalyst Paper land for expansion

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

Most Read