Published: July 17th 2014 | Source: Toronto Star
Finnson dismissed Harrison’s comments as a publicity stunt
Canadian Pacific Railway is going to court to fight an arbitrator’s
order that it must reinstate a locomotive engineer who tested positive
for cocaine use.
“The arbitrator’s decision is an outrage and,
as a railroader, I am appalled we would be forced to place this employee
back in the cab of a locomotive. On my watch, this individual will not
operate a locomotive,” said CP’s chief executive officer Hunter Harrison
in a news release.
We have an American CEO, acriticizing Canadians
for our laws and the way we do things in Canada,” Doug Finnson
“The decision sets a dangerous precedent and is grossly unacceptable for
the safe operation of a railway,” Harrison said.
the individual including his name are being kept secret because medical
information is involved. He is not on the job right now, said CP
spokesman Ed Greenberg, declining to comment further.
to a July 14 decision issued by the Canadian Railway Office of
Arbitration, the locomotive engineer was involved in an incident on Dec.
27, 2012, where a freight train ran through a mainline crossover switch
that derailed a locomotive in a Montreal-area yard.
incident, he was tested, and it was determined he had cocaine in his
“The company is correct in its assertion, on the balance
of probabilities, that the (individual) did consume cocaine at a time
and of a quantity which could impact his work performance,” arbitrator
Michel Picher writes.
CP fired him on Feb. 14, 2013, but his
union, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said the dismissal was
excessive, and argued for his reinstatement, noting the Canadian Human
Rights Act requires a duty to accommodate for his drug dependency.
The union did not deny the locomotive engineer has an addiction
issue, with a Laval rehab centre filing documents that he is “cocaine
dependent.” But the centre said he had treatment between October 2013
and March 2014, and has showed success in remaining cocaine free.
Picher said given the evidence, he sees it as appropriate to give
the individual “another chance to demonstrate his ability to be a safe
and productive employee in control of his drug dependence.”
Picher ordered the employee reinstated, without any loss of seniority,
but without any compensation for any wages or benefits lost.
was not a catastrophe or accident,” said Doug Finnson, vice-president of
the Teamsters Rail Conference of Canada. “It was a minor little
He added that the individual “did not get off
scot-free. He will be subject to random drug testing for two years.”
Finnson argued that while any illegal drug use is not acceptable, he
said that “depending on the circumstances some people are entitled to a
Harrison, who hails from Tennessee, says this
decision highlights the need for public debate, regarding the rights of
an individual when employed in positions involving the safety of the
“Companies in Canada need the ability to carry out random
drug tests as safety should trump the rights of any individual who makes
the dangerous choice to place themselves, their co-workers and the
general public at risk,” said Harrison, who noted railroads in the
United States are required by U.S. federal law to perform random drug
Finnson dismissed Harrison’s comments as a publicity
“We have an American CEO, criticizing Canadians for our
laws and the way we do things in Canada,” he said, noting the
human-rights policies and the Canadian system of arbitration must be
Routine workplace drug and alcohol testing is not
permitted in Canada because courts and tribunals have ruled that such
tests to be an invasion of privacy, as well as questions around whether
a positive test equal impairment.
Previous court cases have made
it clear that employers have a duty to accommodate a drug or alcohol
dependency, because it is considered a disability.
continues about whether more random testing is needed in certain fields,
such as a nuclear plant or in the Alberta oilsands.
In 2013, the
Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a mandatory random alcohol testing
policy imposed by Irving Pulp and Paper at a Saint John, N.B., mill was
The Supreme Court said a labour arbitration board
was right to reject the tests because there was no evidence of an
alcohol problem at the plant.
In 2011, the Toronto Transit
Commission endorsed a policy for random drug and alcohol testing, but
its implementation has been on hold as the Amalgamated Transit Union is
challenging the move.
Brad Ross said the TTC does pre-screening
of potential employees as well as testing for those involved in an
accident or who may appear to be impaired in some fashion.
president Bob Kinnear said he recognizes the need for public safety but
worries about certain individuals being singled out.
“If you are
going to suggest a bus driver should be tested, should the surgeon or
the police officer be tested?” he said. “How about the Prime Minister of
Canada, who is making decisions, to go war or what have you?”
this is the direction we’re going, then we better be taking a look at
any job that has a responsibility to the public,” Kinnear said. “Let’s