The new Metrolinx policy banning recreational cannabis for certain workers has drawn criticism and could bring legal action from the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1587, which represents Metrolinx employees.
Union president John Di Nino has said that the policy change was done without consultation with the union by the company and that members have been calling him with concerns that it infringes on their rights. He has said they are considering every legal option to protect their workers. (The Observer was unable to contact the ATU directly.)
Recreational cannabis has been legal in Canada since October, yet last week, Metrolinx, which runs GO Transit across the province and the Union Pearson Express, banned the use of cannabis off-duty for several “safety-sensitive” positions. The provincially run transit service updated its fitness-for-duty policy and outlined about 140 types of positions that will be affected by the new rule.
The fitness-for-duty policy was introduced last year. It details the company’s stipulations about subjects such as drugs and alcohol and fatigue. Any violations will result in “discipline up to and including termination of employment.”
Employees who are bound by the policy will be required to self-report if they have used cannabis. Those who do will be reassigned until the drug is out of their systems. They then will be assessed on a case-by-case structure. Employees who admit to regular use of cannabis will be advised to take other positions within the company.
“Our priority is the safety of our customers and our services. Safety cannot ever be jeopardized,” Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster said in a statement to the Observer. “Because of the effects of cannabis on people who use it, we have to ensure that those employees in specific safety roles are not using cannabis before coming on duty.”
Cannabis lawyer Caryma Sa’d believes it shouldn’t matter what the employees do on their own time, as long as they are sober and ready to work when their shift starts. “If you’re fit for duty, as a general rule, you show up and you’re capable of performing your function, it shouldn’t matter what you do in your private time, and this policy runs contrary to that.”
Not all Metrolinx employees will be affected by the policy, only those in the aforementioned 140 types of safety-sensitive positions. Of the 3,700 primary employees and contractors, less than half are in these safety-sensitive positions. The new cannabis policy took effect on Feb. 1.