Al­berta court grants Uni­for in­junc­tion block­ing Sun­cor from ran­dom drug test­ing

Vancouver Sun - - FINANCIAL POST - JOHN COT­TER

A union that rep­re­sents EDMONTON 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 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.

JEFF MCINTOSH THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Sun­cor En­ergy says it is “sur­prised and dis­ap­pointed” af­ter a court granted an in­junc­tion block­ing the com­pany from con­duct­ing ran­dom drug tests on em­ploy­ees.

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