Drug & Alcohol Policy Must Be Fair & Equitable for All

by Local OE987

Drug and alcohol testing has been and continues to be an issue in many of our workplaces. There are many reasons why drug and alcohol testing may be carried out in a workplace, the most common being that they are deemed to be safety sensitive. In other cases it is an employer-imposed policy brought about by incidents of employee impairment.

The issue of our human rights and what we do on our own personal time is certainly an important part of our personal privacy (one that all unions have fought hard for). However, at a time where employers are requiring either pre-site access, or post incident testing the issue gets a little more complex.

The Operating Engineers throughout this great land pride ourselves on our reputation for having the best trained, safest and the most productive workforce out there. In a time where a greater degree of scrutiny has been put on the positives of what we’ve been selling owners and contractors, expectations on our members have also risen substantially. Unfortunately we are encountering situations where more and more of our members are failing these tests. The fact that more people are testing positive isn’t because more people are choosing to use drugs or alcohol, however, more workplaces are testing for these substances.

In many instances the tests come back negative for intoxication. However they are coming back positive for use! At this point things get a little complicated. In the case of a positive pre siteaccess test, we generally have to find someone to replace the person whose test came back positive. As a result, the person who tested positive loses out on a potentially lucrative job. On the other hand, when it is a post-incident positive, we either have to replace the person or fight for back-pay from the time the initial test came back positive and the member is suspended, to the time that the swab test comes back negative and the person is reinstated. Right or wrong, contractors are expecting a higher degree of professionalism for on and off the job conduct. This is a direct effect of the mature collective agreements we have bargained for over the years. We have an excellent wage, benefit and overtime package that comes at a high price to the contractors and owners. We would like to be able to keep the gains garnered over the years by confirming for them that we practice what we preach.

Choosing to forgo the use of drugs and alcohol in workplaces where testing is mandatory only makes sense. As an individual, you don’t put your employment at risk, and as a union, it doesn’t put us at odds with the positives of what we go out and sell to the owner/contractor group. Let’s all be mindful of this. Help us be the labour pool of choice and increase our market share in a time that more competition from the CLAC’s, Merit Contractors and other are pitching their tents in this Province.

Having said all this, this union will continue to fight for our members. Fighting back to ensure that when Drug & Alcohol policies are put in place they are fair and equitable. We will also fight to ensure that people who have to undergo testing are treated with dignity and that the testing is done fairly within agreed to proposals and standards. And we continue to oppose random testing and will always support our members who are dealing with addiction problems!