Suncor Loses on Random Alcohol and Drug Testing
Suncor had tried to implement a random drug and alcohol testing policy with respect to all of its safety-sensitive employees in the oil sands. The union resisted and was able to get an injunction from the Alberta courts to prevent implementation of the policy until the arbitration was completed.
A majority of the three member arbitration panel ruled against Suncor. They found that there was insufficient evidence of a problem with alcohol and drug use affecting the workplace, and that the evidence was lacking on the issue of whether random testing would help address whatever problem there was. Meanwhile, a dissenting member of the panel found there was compelling evidence (including three alcohol or drug related fatalities and 149 positive post-incident alcohol and drug tests, in 10 years) to justify random testing. Suncor intends to appeal the decision.
It is apparent from the decision that arbitrators are continuing to struggle with determining what will be "sufficient evidence" on the issues of whether there is a problem and the effectiveness of random testing to mitigate the problem. Next up will be the Teck Coal case, where the employer has promised more, and more compelling, evidence on both issues.
We have reviewed the progress of the Teck Coal case in earlier posts and will continue to follow it. One potentially important difference from Suncor is that the union in Teck Coal was not able to get an injunction to stop implementation of the random testing policy. That means that Teck Coal may be able to provide evidence of the positive effect of the policy between the time of implementation and the arbitration hearing.
alcohol testing drug testing privacy random test safety Suncor Teck