A pedestrian is reflected in a Suncor Energy sign in Calgary, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. A union that represents thousands of oilsands workers at Suncor Energy sites in Alberta has won a court injunction against random drug testing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta court grants Unifor injunction blocking Suncor from random drug testing

EDMONTON — A union that represents 3,000 oilsands workers at Suncor Energy sites in 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 (TSX:SU) 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, said the 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 the pressing safety concerns associated with the ongoing alcohol and drug problems in the workplace in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo,” Seetal said from Calgary.

“Preventing Suncor from taking steps to address known safety hazards associated with workplace alcohol and drug use is not reasonable.”

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 world.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Bonnie Gustola criticized provincial government layoffs at a rally that drew more than 80 people at City Hall Park on Friday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
More than 80 rally in Red Deer against government health, education cutbacks

Rally at City Hall Park organized by the Council for Canadians

The higher the education level, the higher the income of some 1.3 million post-secondary graduates surveyed between 2010 and 2015, with master's degrees paying off the most. But the findings also suggest that gender and timing matter. (Black Press Media File).
2020 high school grads won’t get their ceremony

Decision announced by Lindsay Thurber and Hunting Hills high schools, and Gateway Christian School

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Inter Miami defender Ben Sweat, left, and Montreal Impact attacker Maximiliano Urruti fight for the ball during their MLS soccer match, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Rested Montreal Impact looking to collect points with big finish to regular season

Rested Montreal Impact looking to collect points with big finish to regular season

Mariah Bell of the United States, competes during women's short program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Nathan Chen dominates again in Skate America short program

Nathan Chen dominates again in Skate America short program

Lanto Griffin putts on the ninth hole during the second round of the Zozo Championship golf tournament Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Thomas has a fast start for a 65 and a 1-shot lead at Zozo

Thomas has a fast start for a 65 and a 1-shot lead at Zozo

Mariah Bell of the United States, competes during women's short program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Bell, Tennell go 1-2 in Skate America short program

Bell, Tennell go 1-2 in Skate America short program

Team Saskatchewan skip Matt Dunstone flips his broom in frustration following a shot as they take on Team Alberta in the playoffs at the Brier in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, March 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Team Matt Dunstone considers relocation due to restrictions in Saskatchewan

Team Matt Dunstone considers relocation due to restrictions in Saskatchewan

Most Read