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Drug and Alcohol Policy - June 28, 2011
Published: July 5, 2011

As you are all aware, Xstrata Nickel has just unveiled its' newly amended Drug and Alcohol Policy. This policy was contested by the Union through a series of arbitration dates over the past few years. This is not a new issue in many unionized workplaces. Over 25 cases have been brought before Canadian arbitrators resulting in a precedent which allows companies to implement policies, which in our opinion, infringe upon individual privacy rights. Unfortunately, arbitrators do not see it this way.

Through our own arbitration process over this issue, we were successful in altering or eliminating some of the more sweeping authoritarian language in the policy. For instance, the Company had first proposed random testing language in the original document. We were successful in having this removed. A second major issue which was clarified is the ability of the Company to send an individual for testing after a critical incident. Originally, the Company had proposed that just any incident would qualify an individual for testing. This was amended in that the Company must now also prove impairment before testing is required.

If you find yourself in a scenario where the Company has requested that you be tested, for whatever reason, request Union representation and ensure the Company has followed their own policy by asking for the reasons behind the request. Ask this question, "What signs of impairment am I showing which lead you to believe I am under the influence of drugs or alcohol." Take notes and get it in writing for your own protection.

Submission to a test is still, in our opinion, an individual's prerogative. However, be aware that the Company will likely send you home and discipline you, up to and including a discharge, for not following the Drug & Alcohol Policy, if you do not submit to the test. If you decide to take this route, it is our recommendation that you IMMEDIATELY get yourself tested and have this information forwarded to your family doctor. This must be done as soon as possible after you leave Company property.

One issue still remains to be decided through the arbitration and that is whether the Company has the right to tell you to refrain from consuming alcohol/drugs for up to three-days following a critical incident. This, the Company argues, will allow them time to perform an investigation to determine if the incident was solely due to operator error or otherwise.

The Union does not believe the Company should have the right to dictate to anyone what and how they live their lives when not on the job. We hope the arbitrator agrees with our view of the matter.

Remember, prevention is an individual's best defense. If you have any concerns over this new policy and your current life style, we encourage you to seek answers through various Company-paid confidential EAP programmes. Information on these can be found on most information boards.

Also, workers must remember that the Union reserves the right to grieve any part of the Drug and Alcohol Policy. This would be done on an individual basis.

But let's not forget that under the Mining Regulations, every worker must report to work, "fit for work."

Yours in Solidarity,
Richard Paquin, President
Guy Desloges, Xstrata Nickel Unit Chair
And Bargaining Committee: Chris Browne, Marcel Charron, Jan Romo and Terry McCormick

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