In the much anticipated decision Suncor Energy Inc v Unifor Local 707A, the Alberta Court of Appeal (“ABCA”) upheld the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench decision that a fresh panel must determine whether Suncor should be allowed to conduct random drug and alcohol testing at their worksites in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

In the original arbitration hearing, the arbitration board ruled in favour of the Union, and concluded that Suncor had not demonstrated sufficient safety concerns within the bargaining unit to justify random testing. Importantly, the arbitration board only considered Suncor’s evidence regarding the existence of a drug or alcohol problem within the bargaining unit. A majority of Suncor’s evidence related to their non-unionized employees.

Upon judicial review, the reviewing Justice found that the tribunal had erred in only considering the evidence regarding substance abuse problems within the bargaining unit.

He quashed the arbitration board’s finding and ordered that the matter be sent back for a fresh hearing. The Union appealed the reviewing Justice’s decision.

The ABCA confirmed that the arbitration board must consider all relevant evidence in support of whether a drug and alcohol problem exists in the workplace, regardless of whether that evidence relates to unionized or non-unionized employees.

As a result of the ABCA decision, Suncor will have another opportunity to justify the use of random drug and alcohol testing on some of their safety-sensitive worksites, this time with better evidence.

The outcome of the hearing will have important implications for employer safety practices and procedures, and will provide further information regarding what is required to establish a necessity for random drug and alcohol testing.