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Trucking firm supports drug testing.

Trucking firm supports drug testing

Thunder Bay's John McKevitt supports employee drug testing in the work place for safety and financial reasons.

Two years ago the owner of McKevitt Trucking had one of his trucks seized at the U.S. border because of a drug-related incident involving the driver.

Initially McKevitt was told the had to pay a $45,000 fine in order to retrieve his truck. Three weeks later he had convinced U.S. officials to reduce the fine to $3,500.

"I don't need a $3,500 fine to pay for some driver's idiotic behaviour," he says.

Since the incident McKevitt has implemented mandatory drug tests for new drivers. He admits the policy has led to fewer job applications.

While many groups oppose drug testing, McKevitt fears that an impaired driver could hurt or kill someone.

"I'd rather have the truck parked for another week than kill somebody."

PROMINENCE

The issue of employee drug testing in the work place gained prominence recently when the Toronto Dominion Bank announced it would screen all its new employees as part of a revised policy on alcoholism and substance abuse. It became the first Canadian bank to make the move.

Testing started last month at TD's head office and at three of its Toronto bank branches. It involves new full- and part-time employees at all levels, contract employees and students.

The company's mandatory program will become nation-wide by the middle of 1991, and it will affect 2,000 to 3,000 people annually, says TD representative Susan de Stein.

The bank decided to conduct testing after some concerns were raised last year about bank employees using drugs. At that time a report to the U.S. Senate suggested drug money was being laundered through Canadian banks.

de Stein says the drug-testing process used by the TD is not punitive.

A test is only conducted after the new employee is offered the job, and the results of a test are sent to the doctor in the TD's health services department within three days of testing. The results are not given to the hiring committee, de Stein says.

If a test result is positive, another, more specialized test is administered to detect the use of illegal substances. If that proves positive, the employee is sent to a physician to discuss the problem. A course of treatment is then decided upon, de Stein says.

de Stein says the TD will accommodate employee rehabilitation, possibly through employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Testing positive is not enough to justify termination unless the person refuses to continue with the testing procedure, she adds.

The bank's current employees also might be required to undergo drug tests if their behavior "clearly demonstrates the possibility of substance abuse."

The bank's 250 top executives were asked to voluntarily submit to tests in January as part of their annual physical examinations. The results of the tests were confidential.

While the TD is the only Canadian bank to conduct drug testing, the Bank of Montreal offers an employee assistance program, the Royal Bank of Canada offers counselling services to employees and the Bank of Nova Scotia has a drug education program for senior executives and is testing a pilot employee counselling program.

FEEDBACK

de Stein says the drug-testing announcement drew less opposition from employees than did an announcement that the TD would charge employees service fees for bank transactions.

But testing of any sort doesn't sit well with groups such as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union which vehemently opposes testing.

The Canadian Labor Congress considers prevention, education and rehabilitation as the answers to drug problems in the work place.

David Bradley, vice-president of the Ontario Truckers Association (OTA), says his association supports testing because it improves safety on the highways.

"Anything we can do to improve driver safety is worth a serious look. As an industry we cannot condone impaired people behind the wheel," he says.

Drug testing has been in place in the U.S. transportation sector since 1976. On Jan. 2 1992 the U.S. Federal Highways Administration will extend its drug-testing regulations to foreign truckers, pilots and seaman operating in the U.S.

Transport Canada is formulating drug-testing legislation to bring before Parliament this fall. It will likely require employee testing after an accident, as part of the hiring process or if there is reasonable suspicion of drug use.

The proposal would affect 250,000 workers, including truck drivers, airplane pilots, flight attendants, and bus drivers. It's expected to be fought in court by the Canadian in court by the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Amalgamated Transit Union, with arguments based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Employers would not be required to operate an in-house employee assistance program (EAP) under Transport Canada's proposal. Referral to an EAP for an employee who positive would also not be mandatory.

However, employers would be required to ensure that an employee has access to an EAP.

EAPs are provided at the work site and are designed to help employees deal with problems such as marital and family stress, drug or alcohol abuse and financial or legal problems.

EAPs are now mandatory for Canadian truckers doing business in the U.S.

McKevitt interprets the obligation of "access" as meaning the employer will still have to pay for an employee assistance program.
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Title Annotation:McKevitt Trucking
Author:Young, Laura E.
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:888
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