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New C.B.S. policy could see town employees subject to drug tests

‘Zero tolerance’ for any kind of impairment on the job, says Mayor Terry French

From link to article, Apr 26, 2019

Conception Bay South Mayor Terry French says there will be testing policies put in place for town employees starting May 1. (CBC)

Cannabis may be legal, but the town of Conception Bay South says its rules abound impairment on the job still apply to marijuana, and testing will be brought in to ensure safety when a new policy comes into effect May 1.

Mayor Terry French says the town has “absolutely” no room for impairment, of any kind, on the job.

“There’s zero tolerance. If you are not capable of doing the job that you are assigned to do, then obviously we have a big issue,” French said.

There are three instances where an employee could be subjected to testing, French said: in a post-incident or near-miss situation; if a manager has reasonable grounds of suspicion; or if someone’s returning to work after care.

“We haven’t gotten into the pre-employment testing yet, but that’s certainly something we’ll be looking at,” French said.

Management will work with the union and try to find some place for the employee until they’ve dealt with it.- Terry French, on employees with addictions issues

This updated policy does not stem from any one incident, French said; rather, it’s part of ongoing discussions after the legalization of cannabis in Canada.

The testing would apply to all city staff, contractors, sub-contractors, summer students and volunteers.

In the case of someone with an addiction issue, French said “we’ll do everything in our power” to help that person get help, and the town has measures in place for that.

Conception Bay South has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for impairment of any kind on the job. (Shutterstock)

“Management will work with the union and try to find some place for the employee until they’ve dealt with it,” French said.

“And if not, there’s appropriate actions when you go through our human resources department that will help you deal with this. So if you do have an addictions issue, we certainly hope you come forward.”

French said the testing will be done by a third-party company contracted by the town, but said employees will have “total confidentiality.”

But any results showing impairment will be sent to the town.

French said he hasn’t spoken directly with CUPE, the union that represents town employees, but said their priority is always worker safety, and he can’t imagine they would have an issue with this new policy.

CBC News has asked CUPE for comment.

C.B.S., like other communities, has had drug and alcohol policies in place for years, but the legalization of cannabis has brought up the issue in conversations with councils and leaders.

‘It’s a safety precaution’

In Conne River, Miakpukek First Nation Chief Mi’sel Joe said there has been discussion about cannabis rules and employees.

While the council hasn’t brought in any sort of testing policy, it took to its Facebook page to remind people that, “just because cannabis is legal, it does not mean employees can use or be under the influence of cannabis as work.”

Joe said there has not been an incident involving a worker using cannabis while on duty, adding the post was a general reminder.

“Somebody asked the question and from there we just put it out, to let people know,” he said.

“We’ve been asked the question a number of times, if cannabis is legal, can you still come to work or use heavy equipment? No, that’s the same as alcohol — that’s not acceptable either, so that’s where that’s coming from. It’s a safety precaution.”

Joe said the council has “good people on the ground,” as well as human resources and safety officers.

Chief Mi’sel Joe says there have been no reported incidents of any council employee being impaired by cannabis while on shift, and the Facebook post is just for general information. (Paula Gale/CBC)

“There are daily meetings with our staff, and that’s been going on longer than the cannabis,” he said.

A few years ago, there was a testing policy in place for council members, Joe said, but there is no plan in place to bring in similar testing for employees.

“It’s a policy change to how we do things, so that would require the community to get involved, the community would then look at the policy, send it back to us, we would do any changes they sent back to the community, that’s a process,” he said.

“That’s not something you do overnight.”

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