Mining industry accuses Fair Work Commission of inconsistency on drug testing ruling

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Image credit: flickr User: Justinglary

The mining industry has called into question the decision made by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) relating to drug testing on mine sites.

Image credit: flickr User: Justinglary
Image credit: flickr User: Justinglary

According to the news article on ABC, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) decided to challenge the right of companies to use urine testing after the Commission ruled against Endeavour Energy, labelling the company’s decision to proceed with urine testing as “unjust and unreasonable”.

The AMWU demands that the urine testing be replaced with saliva swab tests, stating that the second option is less degrading.

However, the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) is opposed to this idea and says that companies should manage testing regimes to meet their own safety obligations under law.

Scott Barklamb, Policy Director for AMMA, accused the Commission of setting up double standards and inconsistent decision making with regards to the recent drug testing cases.

“We have cases saying that we may dismiss people for refusing to take urine tests. Then we have other decisions saying it’s unjust and unreasonable to expect a urine test,” said Mr Barklamb.

“So we’re really concerned, as in a number of areas in the industrial relations commission at the moment that the decisions are all over the place and there’s not the level of consistency and certainty employers need to try and be able to meet their obligations under the law.”

According to the media release issued by AMMA, Mr Barklamb said that Endeavour Energy sought to use onsite urine testing due to problems with saliva testing including inaccuracy, an unacceptable turnaround time for conclusive lab results, and the uncertain status of national accreditation for onsite saliva testing.

“By rejecting Endeavour’s latest challenge to the decision that prevented it from introducing urine testing, the FWC is sending mixed messages to the business community on how to properly fulfil legal obligations to provide a safe workplace,” said Mr Barklamb.

Mr Barklamb further added that AMMA has made a private submission to the Minister for Employment with a recommendation that a new expert bench be established to independently hear appeals of contentious FWC decisions.