AFL Urges Unions to "Push Back" against Employers Imposing Drug Testing

At its October meeting, the Executive Council of the Alberta Federation of Labour approved a new Policy Statement on Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing that clarifies labour's position on the issue and takes into consideration recent court decisions which have shifted the ground on mandatory testing.

AFL President Gil McGowan indicates the AFL's last policy was passed in 2001. "It was time for an update. We kept our core principles opposing mandatory drug testing, but added in a more detailed analysis of the legal status of testing.

"In short, the policy clearly opposes all forms of employer-imposed drug and alcohol testing," says McGowan. "It does so for two reasons. First, it is an unreasonable invasion of workers' privacy and in many cases contravenes the human rights code."

"Second, quite frankly drug and alcohol testing doesn't work. It does not make workplaces safer," says McGowan. He notes the Alberta government's own research shows that testing cannot be shown to reduce work-related injuries.

"Our belief is that employers are using drug testing as a method of exerting control over their workforce, not to make workplaces safer."

The Policy offers information and alternatives to workers and unions who are facing employers trying to impose mandatory testing. "Our policy statement is urging our affiliate unions to push back against employers trying to implement invasive and possibly illegal testing programs."

Recent court decisions, such as Chiasson and Jacknife/Collins, have further restricted what testing programs are allowed under law. "We intend on informing our members fully of what employers can and cannot do legally. And rest assured, if an employer tries to implement something of dubious legality, our affiliates will fight hard against it," observes McGowan.

Specifically, the policy also opposes the use of pre-employment testing, random testing and post-incident testing. It also puts the AFL on record opposing the so-called "Canadian Model" which is widespread in the construction industry.

Finally, the policy offers practical alternatives to testing which are shown to be more effective at making workplaces safer without contravening workers' rights.

"We know the issue of drug testing is huge issue that is not going away. We want to make sure workers are fully informed of their rights, and fully prepared to defend themselves," McGowan concludes.

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For more Information:

Gil McGowan, President   Tel: (780) 483-3021         Cell: (780) 218-9888
Jason Foster, Director of Policy Analysis Tel: (780) 483-3021

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