Q. The employers are trying to introduce random alcohol and drug testing. Do unions have policies on alcohol and other drugs?


Trade unions generally oppose random testing, seeing it as unnecessarily harsh and punitive, without addressing real problems. Safety representatives can question the purpose of the testing. If it is to detect workers under the influence through impaired work performance, then that is the task of supervisors and fellow workers. If the aim is to identify candidates for treatment programmes, then normal Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are all that is needed.

If random testing is called for because of public safety concerns, then it should only be agreed to under the most stringent conditions.

Unions acknowledge that workers under the influence of alcohol or other drugs may pose a danger to fellow workers. They also realise that the reasons for the drug or alcohol problems may be complicated and therefore oppose a punitive approach to dealing with the employee effected. This is recognised in drug and alcohol policies developed by unions.

Unions recognise the role of Employee Asistance Programmes (EAPs), provided that employers acknowledge workplace as well as personal factors in dealing drug and alcohol problems. (Based on John Mathews Health and Safety at Work: A Trade Union Safety Representative’s Handbook. 2nd Ed. Pluto Press, 1993)

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