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Unions fight Qantas
July 11 2003
Ten unions have joined forces to oppose Qantas' plan to
introduce random drug and alcohol testing of its 35,000
The unions, representing all Qantas workers apart from pilots,
were galvanised into their joint campaign by a planned trial
of the urine and breath testing program in Sydney in two
The Qantas unions said the tests, designed to detect a range
of prescription medications as well as alcohol and illegal
drugs, were unwarranted and a gross invasion of workers'
The Australian Services Union (ASU), which represents the
largest section of Qantas employees, said the airline had not
provided any evidence there was a drug and alcohol problem
within their workforce.
ASU assistant national secretary Linda White said the airline
had also failed to explain why it wanted to undertake such a
costly testing regime, with the scientific analysis of the
urine costing $57 per test.
"Each test will probably cost three or four times that," Ms
"We understand they plan to conduct 1,500 tests a year."
In a bulletin to Qantas members, the 10 unions said they did
not believe the testing policy would be random, effective or
The unions said they had put forward an alternative to Qantas'
proposed testing regime that included non-intrusive impairment
"Random testing will do nothing more than drive the problem
underground," the bulletin said.
"We have no confidence that the tests will be random and less
confidence that such a policy is effective or fair."
Ms White said if Qantas, Australia's third largest private
employer, did introduce the random testing regime it would set
a frightening precedent for other employers.
"This would become the norm," she said.
"It would mean that occupational health and safety, instead of
being a cooperative thing, would be ruled by fear."
Australian Workers Union national president Bill Shorten said
Qantas was "having a witchhunt without proving the existence
"We don't believe there's any place at work for those impaired
by drugs or alcohol but we feel that random testing is unfair
and a gross infringement of privacy," Mr Shorten said.