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TTC set to introduce random drug and alcohol testing for employees after 57 failed tests in 2015

TTC set to introduce random drug and alcohol testing for employees after 57 failed tests in 2015
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TTC CEO Andy Byford wrote in a letter to employees that management will be also be asking the Ontario government to consider making random testing mandatory for public transit agencies, like it is in the U.S.

Since 2010, TTC employees have undergone drug tests whenever there has been reasonable cause to believe theyre impaired on the job, after being involved in a collision and after being treated for substance abuse. Byford wrote in his letter that there have been continued instances of impairment while at work.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said15 employees had positive drug and alcohol tests in 2014. That number rose to 57 in 2015. In the first three months of 2016, there were 28 failed tests, he said.Ross said the numbers provided were for employees found impaired on the job. They also include those who refused testing.

Were seeing increased instances of positive test results for both drugs and alcohol and thats not acceptable, Ross said. We need to ensure we have a safe transit system.

The random testing was approved by the TTC board in 2011 after a bus collision killed one passenger.The operator passed a breathalyzer, but refused a drug test. Police later charged him with being in possession of marijuana at the time of the crash.

In March, the board approved the funding for the random tests and the TTC will now move forward to implement it. Ross said theyre still determining how much the testing will cost and how many times per year itll take place.

Everyone from operators to executives will be subject to random testing. The tests will be administered by a third-party organization. Breathalyzers will be used to test for alcohol and saliva swabs will test for drugs.

Random testing and this is important only tests for impairment at work, Byford wrote. What you do on your own time is none of our business as long as it doesnt affect your ability to do your job. What you do at work however is very much our business.

The TTC doesnt have a specific discipline system for employees who have tested positive, Ross said, as the repercussions of a failed test are handled on a case-by-case basis. However, Ross did say that employees face up to and including dismissal for even one failed test.

One failed test couldve resulted in a fatality, Ross said.

Employees who fail drug and alcohol tests will not be named unless the test failure isconnected to police charges.

The TTC is working to finalize the drug testing despite still being locked in arbitration with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear said he only found out about the decision on Monday during a labour board hearing and that the union was disappointed, almost to a level of disgust.

Kinnear accuses Byford and the TTC of violating the collective agreement signed with the union in 2014.

What Mr. Byford and TTC management have done today is say: You know what, we dont have to live up to our agreements, Kinnear said.

Our employees have just about had enough. Theyre fed up with Mr. Byford and his antics and his inability to live up to agreements.

The reality is theres no evidence drug testing improves the safety of a transit system.

The union will discuss what action it can take in response to the random drug testing. Kinnear said they may ask for an injunction on the random drug testing and there are also some options in the courts were looking at.
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