Some progress in Upper Hunter drug & alcohol dispute

The LGSA has had some success in using the recommendation of Deputy President Grayson in one of depa’s drug and alcohol disputes (IRC 155/11) for the Upper Hunter councils to consider participating in the forthcoming trial of the Industry Guidelines on alcohol and other drugs. We expect to be able to make a formal announcement of which councils will participate in the trial and the anticipated timeframe soon.

But so far, no progress with the urine sniffers at Upper Hunter - who remain resolutely of the view that they want to urine test everyone, including applicants for jobs, to see what they've been doing over the two or three weeks prior to the test.

Last month we published an extract of a decision in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which criticized urine testing as being intrusive and not as effective as saliva testing in identifying impairment at the time of the test. It is now regarded as an authority in the Federal jurisdiction and will be highly respected in the NSW Commission.

In fact, we know from information provided by advocates of saliva testing who know what they are talking about, that you can, for example, smoke a joint before work and it won't be picked up in your urine until sometime after lunch. And by then, no-one is impaired anymore anyway.

We have offered Upper Hunter the opportunity of participating in the trial of saliva testing and the Industry Guidelines. After all, if saliva is better at picking up people who are impaired at the time of the test, then it makes absolutely no sense to use more intrusive testing. And particularly a more intrusive test that tells you more about what people have been doing when they haven't been at work.

It would have made sense for Upper Hunter to acknowledge the essential wisdom of the AIRC decision and that the regime they have chosen just doesn’t do for them what they say is the intention of the testing. Ignoring this dignified exit option just means they are bloody-minded.

We have asked them for a response by 5pm on Friday 8 April.

Please also keep us in touch with developments about drug and alcohol testing at your Council if those developments do not respect the Industry Guidelines developed by the employers and unions in the industry.

Sue Cox
Proposed drug and alcohol policy
Gunnedah Shire Council are also prosing urine testing of all staff under their proposed policy. I also believe this is intrusive.
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