02:27 pm, Tuesday 17 April, 2012
A state-owned electricity company has appealed to Fair Work Australia on its ruling stating that conducting urine tests would be “unjust and unreasonable” because these tests could provide positive results from drug use days earlier.
Fair Work Australia senior deputy president, Jonathan Hamberger, ruled that the company should instead utilise oral swabs in their drug tests.
The Herald reports that the company, in its notice of appeal, said that urine drug testing has importance as a “deterrent” to drug use and that it was more accurate than conducting oral swab testing.
“We have an overriding legal and social responsibility to protect the safety of our staff at work from foreseeable risks associated with chronic drug use,” said the company.
“It is urine testing, not oral swab testing that best mitigates those foreseeable risks.”
However, one of the unions which represent the workers said that the electricity company was out of step with the state’s other energy distributors, who are already using swab testing to detect drug use.
“The organisation is now, in my view, wasting taxpayers’ money for a vendetta against its workforce,” said Scott Namara of the United Services Union.
“Urine testing is something that is done to basically socially monitor people, and has no effect in identifying fitness for work.”
Other unions believe that this dispute will set an important precedent for other workforces since drug testing is common in different workplaces and the issue of whether swab or urine testing should be used is strongly argued.
According to the Rail, Tram and Bus Union organiser, Bob Nanva, a reversal of the decision could cripple its proposal of making oral swab testing the standard in national rail safety laws that are being drafted.
A spokeswoman from the electricity company said that the FWA ruling is contradicting its earlier decision to allow a mining company to conduct urine drug tests on its workers.