Sep 19, 2008

Union President slams TTC random testing

TORONTO, Sept. 18 /CNW/

The President of the union that represents
9,000 workers at the Toronto Transit Commission today slammed TTC management's
proposal to introduce random drug and alcohol testing to the TTC. Kinnear told
the Commissioners that the proposal was an attempt by management to deflect
attention from their incompetence when it comes to protecting employee safety.
Kinnear also called Commissioners "hypocrites" if they did not agree.

Following is the text of Kinnear's deputation to the Commission meeting:

Let me begin by making it clear that the Amalgamated Transit Union never
has and never will dispute that every worker should report to his or her job
only when they are capable of performing their work safely. And if at any time
during their shift they become unable to continue performing their duties
safely, they should stop immediately and report to their supervisor, if they
can. That is our policy, our members know it.

ATU 113's opposition to this proposal cannot be twisted to imply that we
condone anyone coming to work impaired. As a union we are opposed to anyone
being impaired on the job, no matter what their job.

There are three reasons why the Commission should reject this proposal.

First of all, it is a shameless attempt by senior management to deflect
attention away from their incompetence when it comes to protecting our
members' health and safety. The worst example of this is their attempt to
rewrite history and blame Tony Almeida for his own death in the subway tunnel.
On page five of the report, under the headline "Working Committee Review," the
first sentence begins, and I'm quoting word for word:

<< "The fatal asbestos abatement accident of April 23, 2008 and other employee alcohol and drug related incidents..." >>

On page 5, the accusation against Tony was repeated. It reads: "In
response to this serious incident and other employee alcohol and drug related

This is a clumsy and despicable attempt to blame the victim. Nowhere in
the report does it mention that TTC management pleaded guilty to health and
safety negligence in this case and was fined $250,000. Nowhere does it say
that the TTC's own investigation concluded that Tony Almeida was not
responsible for the accident. Nor does it say that it was a supervisor who
told Tony to proceed on the run that would kill him. Nor does it quote what
Chief General Manager Gary Webster said when the report was issued, only three
months ago. So let me quote back to him what he told the media back then.

<< "Safety was taken somewhat for granted over the years," chief general manager Gary Webster acknowledged to reporters. "Whenever you have an incident like this, you find a lot of stuff you wished you'd acted on more quickly. We're a very good company in reacting to problems. What we need to get better at is being proactive." Webster stressed that the TTC is not blaming its workers for the accident. >>

All that seems to have now changed. Management has shamefully tried to
rewrite history to deflect attention away from their guilt in Tony's tragedy.

The second reason you should reject this policy is that it would not pass
a reasonable cost/benefit analysis. Management can throw all kinds of
statistics and studies from other countries at you. But here in Toronto the
facts are these: In the 109 years our union has been serving this city, there
has never been a single fatality caused by employee impairment.

This report claims that 39 employees were impaired on the job since the
beginning of 2006. We dispute that number but let's say for argument's sake
that it's true. That's one worker in every 150,000 shifts, and no fatalities
or even serious injuries. By contrast, there have been 220 people murdered in
Toronto in that same period and about a thousand more wounded seriously by
guns or knives.

How many millions of dollars would this testing program cost? And how
would it reduce the number of people killed by impaired TTC workers from the
present figure of zero? If the City has the money for testing TTC workers, it
would be better spent trying to get guns off our streets. That's an actual
public safety problem as opposed to a theoretical problem.

Finally, we oppose this proposed policy because it is degrading to
workers to have to pee into a cup, probably while someone watches to make sure
it's your urine. TTC senior management thinks they have been clever to include
themselves in the testing. On page 17 of the report it says that:

<< "Executive positions will be included in random testing because the role of these executives in making significant business decisions that affect the health and safety of the employees and the public." >>

This is an obvious attempt to avoid criticism of elitism but let's follow
this logic. Let me ask you, the TTC Commissioners, whether you make
significant business decisions that affect the health and safety of the
employees and the public. If yes, will you agree to let someone watch you pee
into a cup? But if you don't make significant decisions that could affect
public safety, why am I even talking to you? What do you do that's so

How about all City Councillors and the Mayor? How about all the senior
managers in Police Services, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services,
Toronto Public Health and the other city services that affect the health and
safety of the public?

So unless you are willing to say that every single public official who
makes decisions that could affect public health and safety must be randomly
tested in the way it is proposed for ATU members you're just a hypocrite who
looks down on workers.

Our union acknowledges that the police have the right and duty to keep
our roads safe from impaired drivers. We do not object to the police
conducting impairment tests and laying charges under the same rules that apply
to all other drivers. We trust the police and have confidence in their
judgement, their professionalism and their fairness. We do not have that
confidence in TTC management and I have difficulty imaging that we would gain
that confidence anytime soon.

Thank you.


nixtuff said...

As I mentioned in the other thread, I am fully opposed to a wildcat strike over this. Andy, you said "The answer is no for management and the union. (caring about the ramifications of a strike on the public)". Frankly, that makes me sick. sick sick sick. The way I (and many others) see it, is that Kinnear and Webster sit and argue, but the only thing they can agree on is screwing the public as much as possible. Frankly, I agree that the union should have the power to do *something* about these things, but the argument that a strike is the last resort is bull IMHO. In europe they tape up the fare-box. We've never even tried that here. Other parts of europe see part of the system go down (not the whole system). That's never been tried here. People are so eager to strike/lockout that its just plain wrong.

Andy said...

Canadians are a strange bunch. We accept price gouging on gasoline and no one riots on the streets. We lose thousands of manufacturing jobs that have been moved to Mexico and no one riots on the streets. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a losing team and they still manage to sell out the ACC. That seems to be the trend across the country except for the odd time in Quebec.