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TTC union opposes random employee drug-testing, supports some testing

Last Updated Feb 28, 2017 at 7:38 pm EDT

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is delaying the start of its scheduled random drug-testing program due to a court case.

The employee tests were scheduled to begin March 1 (Wednesday). They will now begin April 1.

“April Fool’s Day. How apropos,” a union spokesperson told 680 NEWS on Tuesday. The union opposes the random tests, but supports incident-based drug testing, which the TTC already conducts.

The TTC says there is a concern about impairment.

In court, the Amalgamated Transit Union and union president Bob Kinnear are denying the allegations implying public safety is at risk due to drug and alcohol use.

The union asked that the testing be delayed until the court case is settled. The TTC is arguing that the testing is necessary. In a court document, the TTC alleges that in 11,000 random tests carried out between October 2010 and December 2016 found 291 documented cases of questionable behaviour.

There were also 45 instances of employees buying or selling drugs or alcohol on the job.

“There are affidavits that were submitted by a number of [TTC employees], where there have been instances of impairment and use of drugs, as well as allegations of the use of drugs in the work place,” TTC spokesman Brad Ross told 680 NEWS on Tuesday.

The union is asking for an injunction, Kevin Morton, the secretary-treasurer for the union, told 680 NEWS.

“We support incident-based testing. That’s the public’s right [and also] protects our employees … the bottom line is, there is no test that measures marijuana [intoxication]. It only measures use,” Morton said.

“We say that’s a violation of the Canadian Charter of the Rights and Freedoms, it’s intrusive, and there is no systemic problem in the TTC.”

Morton said he would also be concerned about the “random” nature of the tests, and how the TTC would guarantee that the tests would be truly random. The union has concerns, he said, that members could be targeted for race, nationality, or religion.

“If you believe someone is impaired, and there’s an incident that justifies it, you can do the testing immediately,” Morton said.

Mayor John Tory also weighed in on Tuesday, saying in the tug of war between rights and public safety, he leans towards public safety.

“There’s a fine balancing act that has to go on,” he said. “And in this case, I would opt for the choice being made in favour of public safety.”

“If nobody’s taking drugs or drinking alcohol, I guess it won’t be of any concern that there might be a test taken on this. But I think that the vast majority of people would say that this is a prudent step that should be taken in the interest of public safety and that when it comes to that balancing act, this is one of those cases where the public comes first.”

The commission said more than 10,000 TTC employees will be subject to testing, including all operators and maintenance employees, designated supervisors, managers and executives or anyone whose job has accountability or responsibility for the safety of employees and the public.

The TTC said it will only test for likely impairment at the time of the test, adding it has no interest in what employees do on their own free time unless it impacts on their performance in the workplace.

The TTC approved the $1.3-million program at its board meeting on Nov. 30.