Suncor wins ruling on random drug testing, but union vows to keep fighting – Calgary

Energy giant Suncor Energy has won another victory in a years-long legal battle over random drug and alcohol testing at its northeastern Alberta oilsands sites.

Suncor started randomly testing staff in safety-sensitive jobs in 2012, but the union representing many of those workers called it an infringement of privacy.

The majority of an arbitration tribunal ruled in favour of Unifor in 2014, but last year Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon quashed that decision.

Unifor appealed Nixon’s ruling, but three judges with the Alberta Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the union’s challenge in a decision released Thursday.

“The question before us is whether the reviewing justice selected the appropriate standard of review and applied it properly,” the Appeal Court judges wrote.

“We hold that he did both.”

Tribunal highlights safety’s importance

The arbitration tribunal heard that, at the time of the grievance, there were about 10,000 workers at Suncor’s oilsands sites at any given time, including nearly 3,400 represented by Unifor.

The company presented evidence of more than 2,200 incidents that involved drugs or alcohol, but did not break down how many involved unionized employees versus non-union members and contractors.

In Thursday’s ruling, the judges noted workers inside and outside the union regularly work side-by-side.

They also highlighted why safety is such a concern.

Suncor’s facilities around Fort McMurray, Alta., operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year and its employees work 12-hour shifts operating some of the biggest and most complicated industrial equipment in the world.

“The equipment includes heavy haul trucks that are as large as multi-storey buildings and weigh in excess of 400 tons, as well as cable and hydraulic shovels that can stand 21 metres tall.”

The Appeal Court judges said the key question during arbitration was whether there was sufficient evidence of a widespread substance abuse problem that…

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