TTC approves random drug testing

Workers with the Toronto Transit Commission will soon be subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

Union promises to fight

Workers with the Toronto Transit Commission will soon be subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

The TTC board approved the move on Wednesday — the first transit system in Canada to take the step.

"At this stage there's lots of details that we need to work out," said TTC chair Karen Stintz. "We need to work out how often employees get tested.  What happens after they receive a test.  What happens with a positive test.  What those costs are and how we're going to phase that in."

"Riders can have the knowledge that we have random drug and alcohol testing at the commission  and we're doing all we can to have a safe operating environment - and that operators are fit for duty when they show up to work," said Stintz.

TTC management has been pushing for random drug testing for years.

The final straw was an accident on Aug. 30, where Jadranka Petrova, 43, was killed. 

The driver, 51-year-old William Ainsworth, is charged with criminal negligence causing death and marijuana possession.

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents most TTC workers, says the new policy is "a violation of our Charter rights."

Bob Kinnear says a legal challenge is guaranteed.

The union, he says, supports testing but says the mouth swabs are intrusive. 

"These tests in no way, shape, or form, determine impairment at the time — and that's what we are all trying to alleviate," he said. 

But Stintz disagrees. 

"We have been advised that those swabs demonstrate impairment at the time and that all we are interested in is impairment at the time." 

The TTC says since 2005 there have been at least 78 incidents involving employees and drug and alcohol - but it's unclear whether those incidents happened on the job.

"We can tell you there have been ongoing incident since 2008 and that based  on the results of those we believe that our 'fit for duty policy' should — and can be — strengthened," said Stintz.

The TTC will not release the total number of incidents or what was involved.

TTC commissioner Denzil Minnan-Wong says that is not acceptable.

"I've seen the numbers and I'm concerned enough that I think the public should be made aware of the nature of the problem," he said.