Alberta judge quashes decision that ruled against Suncor random drug tests

Oilsands giant Suncor Energy has won the latest round in its push to randomly test thousands of workers for drugs and alcohol in northern Alberta.

EDMONTON — Oilsands giant Suncor Energy has won the latest round in its push to randomly test thousands of workers for drugs and alcohol in northern Alberta.

A Court of Queen’s Bench judge has quashed a 2014 arbitration panel ruling that determined the proposed testing plan would violate the privacy of union workers represented by Unifor.

Justice Blair Nixon said the panel should have considered evidence about alcohol and drug incidents involving all workers at Suncor, including non-union contract employees.

“By focusing only on the bargaining unit, the majority (of the panel) expressly excluded consideration of relevant evidence,” Nixon wrote.

“The majority ignored evidence pertaining to some two-thirds of the individuals working in the oilsands operation.”

Nixon said a new arbitration panel should review the company’s random testing plan, which Suncor first announced in 2012.

Suncor had presented evidence of 2,276 drug and alcohol “security incidents” recorded between 2004 and 2013.

Unifor, which has been challenging the random drug testing proposal, took the position that only 12 of the incidents involved union members.

Suncor Energy (TSX:SU) spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said the company is pleased with Nixon’s ruling. She said random testing aims to protect the safety of the public, workers and the environment.

“What is important for Suncor is really looking at the driver behind our desire to include random testing in our already comprehensive safety program,” she said.

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

Unifor spokesman Dave Moffat said the union will appeal the judge’s decision and maintains that random testing violates the basic rights of union members.

“We are disappointed but we will proceed through the system and hope for a satisfactory result,” he said.

“It is important to all Canadians that the randomness of this kind of personal invasion is something that we have to make sure gets vetted through our system and that everybody understands its seriousness and its implications.”

The union, which represents about 3,800 workers at Suncor, said the company already has a comprehensive drug and alcohol policy that includes post-incident and reasonable cause testing.

It said that policy is not affected by the ongoing litigation over the random testing plan.

The court ruling was handed Wednesday as Suncor flew almost 4,000 employees and contract workers from its operations north of Fort McMurray due to the massive wildfire burning in the region.

Seetal said emergency staff remain who are working to protect the site.

“Those remaining are essential personnel,” she said.

“These folks have worked tirelessly to protect people and our assets and we can’t thank them enough for their hard work and diligence.”

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

Just Posted

Dashcam captures hair-raising near miss on Highway 2

Paramedic says his emergency driving training kicked in to avoid collision

Updated: Red Deer mourns loss of philanthropist Gary W. Harris

Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre stands as lasting legacy to businessman’s generosity

Skip The Dishes launches alcohol delivery in 3 Alberta cities

Some Alberta residents can now get their beer and wine delivered through… Continue reading

UPDATE: Road clear following three-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

Police say there was a “serious collision” near Sylvan Lake Wednesday afternoon.… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

David Marsden: Hospital unfairness makes me ill

The provincial government clearly isn’t without money. If it was, it wouldn’t… Continue reading

P.E.I.’s Birt through to championship round at Tournament of Hearts

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Suzanne Birt reached the championship round at the… Continue reading

Teachers focusing on innovations at Red Deer convention

More than 1,750 delegates are attending the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention. The… Continue reading

Passengers leave ship docked off Japan after quarantine ends

YOKOHAMA, Japan — About 500 passengers left the cruise ship Diamond Princess… Continue reading

Quebec premier calls for federal ultimatum to end rail blockades within days

OTTAWA — Quebec’s premier says he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to… Continue reading

Canada’s laws don’t apply to chiefs who oppose pipeline

Re: “Blame the chaos on Trudeau,” David Marsden, Opinion, Feb. 15. I… Continue reading

We should be getting more dairy and eggs at lower prices

The last time the federal Conservative party selected a new leader, three… Continue reading

Most Read