One of Australia’s biggest unions claims it will now mount legal challenges against mining contractors who force workers to submit to drug and alcohol urine testing, after a landmark decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission last week.
The Fair Work Commission labelled the use of urine drug and alcohol tests as “unjust and unreasonable” in a recent hearing brought by NSW Government-owned electricity network company Endeavour Energy.
Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Steve McCartney, said urine testing was not appropriate for mine sites as the tests could detect substances, such as cannabis, up to three months after its use.
The union is promoting the employment of saliva tests only, which detect cannabis use for up to 12 hours prior to the test being administrated, and harder drug use for up to three days prior.
Speaking to The West Australian, McCartney said that if saliva swabs were good enough to be used by police on motorists, they were also appropriate for the resources sector.
“You can tell Rio Tinto, Woodside and BHP (Billiton) that they can be expecting to hear from us,” McCartney said.
“We will be taking them all on because we owe it to our membership,”
Scott Barklamb from the Association of Mines and Metals (AMMA) said he was concerned about Fair Work’s decision and the stance of unions.
“AMMA strongly believes that the only suitable people to be making decisions about which drug and alcohol testing method is best suited to maintaining a safe workplace are the people directly involved in running those workplaces,” he said.
“It is not the expertise or role of an employment tribunal, or an employer association, or a union boss to make critically important operational decisions regarding the safety of someone else’s employees.”