News from Sparwood: Random drug testing to start this week.

Random Drug Testing Program to Start as Workers Return To Work This Week In The Elk Valley.

Ron McKenzie – Dec 2/2012

In what many feel is a blatant and aggressive, violation of personal freedoms, privacy and an attempt to control our actions not only at work, but in our homes as well.  Our friends and neighbours in the coal patch, will be required to start submitting to, “random” urine tests when they return to work this week.

Similar action in Alberta by Suncor, has been identified in court as an, “ invasion of privacy that could cause irreparable harm to innocent employees”  because of this,  “Alberta’s top court has dismissed an appeal by Suncor Energy over its plan to randomly test thousands of its oilsands workers for drugs and alcohol“.  A similar case is currently tied up by paperwork in our BC courts.  Inexplicably this company seems determined to bring this to Sparwood and eventually the rest of their BC mines, before it has even been decided if it is legal to do so here or not?

One is left only to speculate the reasons? Maybe they really do believe it will soon become illegal to make everyone, randomly, pee in a cup without just cause and  feel the need to get in their shots before the referee’s in our courts of law call foul.  Or maybe it is because jurisdictions like Alberta and Alaska have been allowing the practice at operating mines there and they have managed to keep the practice quiet.  I wonder if this will apply to all levels of worker from front line to CEO or do they really feel some people better than others and above suspicion, senior decision makers clearly hold safety sensitive positions do they not?  Would it be fair that they should be forced to share their medical and social histories with all of those who they may be putting at risk?

“Post incident” testing is already the norm in the coal mines, and in many other “Safety Sensitive” jobs and is conditionally accepted by the union in Sparwood and elsewhere, as an aid in determining root cause as long as it is not used to discriminate against those with a disability or medical condition and there is reasonable cause to suspect drug or alcohol could have been a factor.  The tests have been proven to be of little need however, since it is rare to find drugs and alcohol as a factor. Meaning more often than not our case is proven that there is not a problem with drug abuse or at risk behavior among our workers.  Just talking to people is much more effective for identifying and solving issues than this.

Yet without any justification of there being a real problem made known, the company has chosen to place the entire workforce under suspicion of somehow hiding an addiction or abuse problem.  Making workers suspicious of the people next to them and constantly being under the stress of a test coming back positive, falsely positive or not?  I strongly suspect that this culture of paranoia, stress and distrust is far more dangerous to the mental and physical health of our workers than even the worst case perceived risk of drug abuse could be.  Possibly even having the effect of causing, rather than preventing, disabling mental health diseases such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse, as well as becoming the root cause of serious incidents due to a loss of attention to the tasks at hand.(article: Stress in the workplace)

The Canadian Human rights Commission found this type of random action deplorable 10 years ago, what has changed since then? Nothing!  As of Dec 1st 2012, their official policy statement on the website still describes random drug testing as discriminatory and unduly invasive.  Maybe only companies have human rights in Canada now?

I guess some would prefer to spend a great deal of time and large sums of money promoting an atmosphere of fear and distrust in their workplaces, rather than working together in solving actual, proven, safety concerns.  Is this courageous!?  I think it is foolhardy and offensive!

Good people will be losing their jobs over this, for no other reason than a misguided perception of risk and corporate rights under Canadian law!

What would make a company choose to take the lead on a constitutional challenge of human rights over this issue?

I only really wonder how soon we will see this policy arrive in our own workplace? It has been promised to us already?

We will need to educate ourselves on this one, for more reading material folow the links on this page or search out the information for yourself, it’s not hard to find!

Canadian human rights Commission

Truck news Article

CEP Article

WIKI (general overview)