A panel of judges from the Court of Appeal of Alberta has reserved its decision regarding an injunction that prevents Suncor Energy from randomly testing its employees for drugs and alcohol.

Suncor sought an end to the injunction, arguing that random testing is necessary to ensure safety at its worksites.

The union that represents 2,800 of Suncor's employees, Unifor 707A, argued the random tests cause irreparable harm to workers by violating their privacy and dignity.

Safety vs. privacy 

Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal said its existing policies are not enough to keep workers safe.

"We continue to see safety incidents at the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo involving alcohol and drugs, and that's why we're proceeding down this path," said Seetal. 

Ken Smith, president of Unifor 707A, says the random testing does more harm than good. 

"To do testing now would cause irreparable harm to that employee," said Smith. "How do you give him his dignity back once it's been taken away?"

Long legal battle

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Belzil granted an interim injunction last December, preventing Suncor from implementing its drug-testing policy.

The injunction is in place while Unifor seeks leave to challenge Suncor's policy in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. 

The ongoing legal battle stems from 2012, when Suncor first introduced the random testing policy for safety sensitive jobs. 

Unifor filed a grievance, saying the policy violated workers' rights. In 2014, an arbitration tribunal ruled in favour of the union. 

Suncor appealed the decision, and it was quashed in 2016 by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Blair Nixon. 

Unifor appealed Nixon's ruling, but the Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the union's challenge last September.

Unifor is now seeking leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.