Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
About the RTBU
Contact us

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Recently and with barely three daysí notice, Aurizon forwarded a new enterprise wide drug and alcohol policy.

One element of the policy change means that Aurizon are attempting to conduct alcohol and/or drug testing on employees before they commence each shift. Furthermore it is understood that they intend to stand down anyone who displays a positive result - without pay.

Needless to say, Aurizon did not approach your Union advising of such drastic changes.
In the first instance, the RTBU doubts the capacity of Aurizon to conduct testing in the manner proposed in the latest advice and furthermore the Union questions the right to force employees to take unpaid leave in the circumstances proposed by Aurizon.

In the last few days a large number of questions have also arisen about the practicality of the scheme. In absence of any consultation though Ė itís no surprise flaws were quick to emerge in the system.

Below is a letter to Aurizon seeking a response on exactly how they propose to undertake such testing, how wide they intend to cast the net and on what basis they believe they have the right to force employees who provide a positive result to take unpaid leave.

I will ensure members are advised of Aurizonís response upon receipt along with what action the RTBU may consider to be required depending on the contents of the response.

Unity is Strength

Owen Doogan
RTBU State Secretary,
Queensland Branch

Dear Mr Patterson


We are aware that Aurizon has rolled out enterprise wide drug and alcohol testing measures which significantly increase the testing regime along with stiffening the penalties.

They raise several questions which our members are concerned about. No one wants to work in an unsafe environment but this policy seems flawed, and in some cases promotes unsafe activity on one viewing.

The policy now suggests that all workers on all operational shifts shall be tested. This has been confirmed anecdotally but there seems to be some practical issues arising. Coupled with this there are some issues of scope.

We understand for instance that in Coppabella that only one person is competent to carry out the initial testing. How is that person supposed to cover every shift? Even if they were to only test a selection of people Ė how is this practical? Are they only responsible for Coppabella or beyond that area as well? If they have to travel to conduct the tests, how can they achieve compliance?

Is there someone in place to undertake the testing in Longreach, for instance, for the handful of staff there? If there isnít someone in place for each shift, as we understand it currently, how is your new policy achievable?

What is an Operational shift? For instance will you, or others in senior management, be tested each day for each shift? If not, why not?

Beyond matters of practicality there are questions of lawfulness.

On what basis do you say itís lawful that someone be stood down without pay if they fail a test? Your policy indicates that they shall be placed on leave without pay. Your enterprise agreements however make clear that someone only goes on leave without pay on application. I donít believe people will apply for leave without pay just to help Aurizon inflict unfair punishment, so on what basis do you say you can force someone to take such leave?

How could it possibly be a fair process if you are removing the presumption of innocence from your process? How is it that someone must forgo wages, especially in this economic climate, without due and proper process?

Beyond that we cannot see how Aurizon can unilaterally decide to withhold someoneís pay. It is summary justice at the hands of your management team and is simply unacceptable. We seek that you immediately withdraw this provision.

These are important matters and must be addressed quickly.

We will be encouraging our members to raise any inconsistencies they find as well. Safety is too important an issue to be compromised by ill thought out processes and procedures.

Yours Sincerely

Owen Doogan
RTBU State Secretary,
Queensland Branch