Canada’s oil sands giant Suncor Energy (TSX, NYSE:SU) has lost an appeal of a temporary injunction that halts the start of random drug and alcohol testing on its employees.
PostMedia reports the Alberta Court of Appeal turned down the request in a split decision Wednesday after hearing arguments from the company, which has said the measure is a matter of workplace safety.
The decision implies that Suncor’s new testing program will remain stalled until an arbitrator rules on a complaint filed by the workers. That arbitration is scheduled to begin Dec. 10, but it is not known when a final decision will be reached.
Suncor announced in June its plan to institute random drug testing beginning Oct. 15, 2012. The program was halted on Oct. 12 after a provincial court granted a temporary injunction over concerns about worker privacy.
Suncor wanted that decision to be overturned so the testing program can go ahead. Lawyers told the court that there have been 100 incidents involving drug and alcohol use on the Suncor worksite over the past two years.
“One intoxicated man caused the Exxon Valdez incident,” Justice Jean Cote was quoted as saying by The Edmonton Journal. He was referring to the massive 1989 oil spill off the Alaskan coast in which the sobriety of the ship’s captain became a key investigative point. However, Cote was in the minority.
The workplace drug testing case is being watched closely because of its possible domino effect in other workplaces in both the province and the country.