February 3, 2018 - The union representing the workers says such testing — which it calls “an intrusion into workers’ rights” — has gone on for more than five years. They believe it violated the human rights of the workers, and posed further problems in regards to medical privacy.
The Random Drug and Alcohol testing was first initiated in December of 2012 in Canada's Elk Valley at all five mine sites. The USW represents three of the five mines in the Elk Valley: Coal Mountain, Fording River Operations and Teck – Elkview Operations.
“Teck apparently pulled names out of a hat somehow and would select people and then force them to go into a random drug and alcohol test,” said Alex Hanson, president of United Steelworkers Local 9346.
Hanson said Teck never showed just cause, but instead tested workers “based on a perceived fear that they have.”
In 2013, Teck said it would keep randomly testing workers for drugs and alcohol even though the Supreme Court called the practice “unreasonable” in a ruling in New Brunswick.
This week, arbitrator John Kinzie sided with the workers, ruling that the company’s testing is not sufficient enough to justify serious intrusions into coal miners’ rights.
“There is not a corresponding ‘general’ problem in those workplaces with employees being under the influence of, or impaired by, drugs or alcohol sufficient enough to justify those serious intrusions into their rights,” Kinzie said as part of his decision.
Teck does pre-employment drug screening as well as post-incident testing, which both the union and the arbitrator agree are justified.