Top court will not hear oil­sands drug test ap­peal

Sun­cor, union spat goes back to ar­bi­tra­tion

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST -

OTTAWA • The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a union’s ap­peal of a key rul­ing about ran­dom drug test­ing at Sun­cor En­ergy

Inc.’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

SAFE ON THE JOB WHILE RE­SPECT­ING THEIR DIG­NITY.

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.

The union ar­gues that it vi­o­lates work­ers’ rights and pri­vacy. It says Sun­cor em­ploy­ees are al­ready sub­jected to more al­co­hol and drug test­ing than Al­berta driv­ers, not­ingSun­cor tests work­ers 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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