Suncor Energy Centre is shown in Calgary, AB December 11, 2011.
Credits: Suncor Energy reported today that it is suspending its operations with the General Petroleum Corpora
While arbitration is pending, the Communications Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Union Local 707 is prepared to drag the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"We have told the company that our interests are to get to the arbitration process as soon as possible, before the implementation date, so we can get a ruling prior to that," said Roland Lefort, president of CEP Local 707 in Fort McMurray. "If they have no intention of going to arbitration before that date, then we will seek an injunction to prevent implementation through the provincial courts."
The program is scheduled to begin Oct. 15.
Lefort says the union has also applied for intervener status on a case currently being heard by the nation's top court, which is expected to rule on random narcotic testing.
That case dates back to 2006, when a paper mill in New Brunswick imposed mandatory random alcohol testing for its employees.
CEP Local 30, which represents those workers, argued the policy was degrading, unfairly pitting the privacy of workers against an employer's mandate to provide a safe workplace.
If CEP Local 707 is granted intervener status, the Fort McMurray union would be allowed to join the litigation process.
"That ruling is either going to make us or break us. We will feel the impacts. Everyone will," Lefort said. "So it is in our best interest to have intervener status.
"We want to participate in that hearing to extend the arguments to what is happening here in Alberta."
In June, representatives of Alberta's energy and construction industry announced that they would participate in a two-year pilot project, titled the Drug and Alcohol Risk Reduction Pilot Program (DARRPP).
DARRPP will report its findings and recommendations to the province - as well as participating stakeholders and companies - in 2014. Other participating companies include Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the Oil Sands Safety Association, the Construction Owners Association of Alberta and Total E&P Canada.
However, CEP has opposed the plan, arguing that random testing brings more harm than good to workplace culture.
"We understand there's a big drug and alcohol problem in the oilsands and Fort McMurray. We don't condone that activity and we understand it's a concern," CEP Western Region vice-president Jim Britton said. "But this is a privacy issue. It's degrading and we'd rather see companies be proactive than reactive."
CEP is no stranger to privacy issues and drug testing in the workplace. In 2009, CEP Local 900, which represents workers at an Ontario oil refinery, successfully convinced the province's top court that companies cannot, without reasonable cause, enforce drug tests on workers performing safety-sensitive jobs.
In Alberta, testing has become commonplace in the oil industry. In some cases, employees face tests before they are even hired or allowed onto a worksite.
Lefort agrees with Britton's sentiments, but feels that testing could spark a debate on privacy issues in the workplace.
"If people believe that this will start and finish right here with this program, well, think again," he said. "The bigger oil companies, they were the first to introduce pre-employment testing, stuff like sniffer dogs and post-incident testing. Now those things are all over the workplace."