The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a union’s appeal of a key ruling about random drug testing at Suncor Energy’s oilsands operations in northeast Alberta. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Supreme Court will not hear drug testing appeal involving oilsands workers

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a union’s appeal of a key ruling about random drug testing at Suncor Energy’s oilsands operations in northeast Alberta.

Suncor began testing staff in safety-sensitive jobs six years ago, prompting Unifor — which represents some 3,000 workers at the site — to file a grievance claiming the tests infringe privacy.

An arbitration tribunal allowed the union’s grievance, concluding the testing policy was an unreasonable exercise of management rights.

However, an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruling quashed that decision, sending the matter to a fresh arbitration panel.

Unifor appealed, but the Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the union’s challenge, and Unifor took its case to the Supreme Court.

As usual, the high court gave no reason for refusing to hear the case.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said the union is confident it will prevail when the new arbitration panel hears the case.

“There is no evidence that random testing improves safety,” Dias said Thursday in a release. “Unifor is committed to reliable methods to keep our members safe on the job while respecting their dignity.”

Dias said in the meantime, the interim injunction prohibiting Suncor from randomly testing workers for drugs and alcohol will remain in place.

Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Setal said the company hopes the new arbitration process will begin as soon as possible.

“We are looking forward to moving forward with this case so that we can ensure that people are sent home safely at the end of every shift,” she said. “Time is of the essence because people are getting hurt and the risk continues.”

A Court of Queen’s Bench judge granted the injunction last December at the request of the union.

Suncor and Unifor Local 707-A have been battling over random testing since 2012, when the company announced it was going to start the practice.

The union argues that it violates workers’ rights and privacy.

Unifor says Suncor employees are already subjected to more alcohol and drug testing than Alberta drivers.

The union says Suncor tests following virtually every workplace incident. In contrast, police can only demand that a driver submit to drug and alcohol testing if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver is impaired.

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