Article by The Toronto Star
The Toronto Transit Commission has had five years to make a convincing case that there is a serious drug or alcohol problem among its staff that is putting public safety at significant risk. So far it hasn’t.
But that hasn’t stopped the commission from announcing last week that it would go ahead with its misguided plan, originally approved in 2011, to randomly test thousands of transit workers for drug and alcohol consumption with invasive mouth swabs and breathalyzer tests.
While the TTC is right to discourage on-the-job impairment, random screening of thousands of people is the wrong way to proceed. It would sacrifice workers’ rights to privacy on a massive scale in return for minimal safety benefits.
Indeed, this intrusive approach, budgeted at $1.3 million for 2017, is especially unjustified given that the TTC already subjects it employees to extensive screening under its “fitness-for-duty” policy. That program tests staff for drug or alcohol impairment after a serious incident; for “reasonable cause” (such as appearing to be drunk); if they’re returning from rehab; and before they are hired. It covers all drivers, maintenance staff, anyone operating heavy machinery, all managers responsible for those workers, and TTC executives.
Despite that program and a staff of 14,000 the TTC had recorded just six cases of impairment at work or refusal to take the test by April of this year. (The TTC does not more recent figures.)
Why the push? The commission’s CEO, Andy Byford, is insistent on implementing “whatever measures are available to make sure there is no question of its employees in a safety critical position being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”