Teck starts random testing, to union’s displeasure

Steelworkers seek court injunction, Teck cites improved safety, deterence.

The union representing workers at mines in the Elk Valley has come out against the decision by Teck Coal to implement random drug and alcohol testing.

The random  testing policy was introduced across Teck’s coal operations in the Elk Valley on December 3..

The United Steelworkers Local 9346 said in a press releas that it “vigorously opposes the implementation of random testing as it violates worker’s privacy.”

The union has filed a grievance in B.C. Supreme Court, which has been referred to arbitration.

“Random testing is immoral, humiliating, degrading, and demeaning,” Local 9346 Union President Alex Hanson said.

“This is a gross invasion and violation of workers privacy, shows a blatant disregard for the sanctity of the workers person, and completely obliterates the trust of the employer-employee relationship.”

“We have crossed the Rubicon to a place where workers are guilty until proven innocent, what a shameful day in the history of human freedom.”

But Teck said the new policy will reduce injuries and serve as a deterent.

“We take our obligation to provide the safest possible workplace for our employees very seriously and, as such, we strongly believe that taking measures to eliminate drug and alcohol abuse that can affect safety is an important way we can achieve our vision of everyone going home safe and healthy every day,” said

Nic Milligan, Manager of Community and Aboriginal Affairs at Teck’s coal operations.

“Research has shown that random drug and alcohol testing is an effective way to deter the use of illegal drugs and the misuse of alcohol or prescription drugs in the workplace.

“For example, a study of the U.S. trucking industry showed that the implementation of random alcohol testing was connected to a 23 per cent  reduction in fatal crashes involving large trucks,” Milligan said.

Teck said that of all pre-employment tests conducted in 2011, there were 39 failures.

The Steelworkers said the union attended a pre-order hearing for injunctive relief on November 25 prior to implementation of the policy. However, the hearing was adjourned by the arbitrator due to lack of available time to complete the hearing. The Steelworkers then applied to the BC Supreme Court for injunctive relief on November 28. The Arbitrator intervened on the BC Supreme Courts to assert his jurisdiction over the case and ruled that Steelworkers could not apply to the courts for injunctive relief, the union said in a press release.

The pre-order hearing has yet to be completed and no ruling on Teck’s ability to implement random testing has been handed down.

Milligan added that a positive test is not a firing offence.

“Employees who test positive in a random drug and alcohol test will be given the opportunity to seek treatment paid for by Teck, upon completion of which they can return to work.”

The case is not an isolated one. A Suncor injunction against random drug and alcohol testing was recently upheld in the Alberta Queen’s Court Bench, the union said. As well, the Supreme Court of Canada was set to preside over a random alcohol testing case from New Brunswick later this week.