Random drug testing halted at Elk Valley Teck mines
Random drug and alcohol testing has become a thing of the past for United Steelworkers unionized workers at three of the five Teck Resources coal mines in the Elk Valley.
The United Steelworkers (USW) reported Jan. 29 that it has won an arbitration that puts an end to random drug testing at Teck’s Coal Mountain, Fording River Operations and Elkview Operations.
In December 2012, Teck began randomly testing employees for drug and alcohol use. The union opposed this infringement of employee privacy and took action to oppose its implementation, USW noted.
“This view is supported by the significant arbitration decision that recognizes the importance of employee privacy rights and imposes a high bar on employers to justify random testing, said USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt, who lauded the decision as a significant victory for not only Steelworkers, but all workers.
“The arbitrator completely rejected the idea that some theoretical, but non-existent safety risk justifies the intrusion of random testing when there is no evidence of workplace problems due to drug and alcohol use,” he said.
Hunt said the use of random drug and alcohol testing by employers is limited and Teck’s pursuance of it was contrary to the consensus that random testing is ineffective, does not deter use or reduce workplace accidents or injuries.
“The safety of workers is paramount and we fight for it every day,” he said, adding, “Random testing is a distraction that invades privacy and does nothing to keep workers and communities safe.”
Alex Hanson, president of United Steelworkers Local 9346 told Elk Valley Coal News, “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.
The company never showed just cause, but instead tested workers “based on a perceived fear that they have, Hanson said.
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, Elk Valley Coal News reported.
“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.
The decision by USW Locals 7884 and 9346 means the testing is to cease at Fording River and Elkview mines with immediate effect, and pursuant to agreements between Teck, USW Local 7284, and IUOE Local 115, it is also struck down at Coal Mountain and Line Creek mines, USW said.
In a brief statement Teck said it is reviewing its next steps.
“At Teck, safety is a core value and we are committed to ensuring a safe work environment for our people. Random testing stopped at Teck’s Elk Valley mine sites following the decision. Teck is reviewing the decision with council before determining next steps,” said Chris Stannell, communications specialist with Teck.