Injunction against drug testing upheld by Court of Queen's Bench
Edmonton – The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) is calling a ruling that protects workers in the oil sands from non-consensual drug testing a win for human rights.
In a decision on Wednesday, Nov. 28, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Myra Bielby, spoke for the majority opinion and called Suncor's plans for drug testing 'a significant breach of worker's rights,' while upholding an injunction that will prohibit the company from testing employees without cause.
"Employers like drug testing programs because they give the impression that something decisive is being done about safety," AFL president Gil McGowan said. "But these programs don't improve safety. Employers know that, so it's little more than very expensive public relations."
Lawyers for Suncor sought to overturn the injunction so the energy company could move ahead with a random drug testing program that was halted by a Court of Queen's Bench injunction until an arbitration board can deal with a grievance filed by Communications Energy and Paperworkers Local 707, the union that represents 3,400 workers at Suncor's oil sands operations.
"Imposing a regime of random drug testing on an entire workforce is an unwarranted invasion of privacy," McGowan said. "It's invasive, it's demeaning, and it says to workers 'none of you can be trusted.'"
The union has agreed to certain types of drug testing in its collective agreement, including pre-employment screening and with-cause drug testing. As a partner in workplace safety, both CEP 707 and the AFL are in favour of programs that would prevent accidents. There is no evidence, however, that random drug testing makes workplaces safer.
"The evidence suggests that random drug testing can actually make things worse by encouraging people to move from soft drugs, like marijuana that stay in your system for up to a month, to hard drugs like cocaine and crystal meth that are metabolized much more quickly," McGowan said.
This is the second appeal of the injunction that Suncor has lost. In October, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that random drug and alcohol testing could not take place until after the Labour Board rules on CEP 707's objections to the program.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.