FBEU MEDIA ADVISORY / RELEASE
Random drug and alcohol tests an unnecessary breach of privacy
Monday, August 29, 2011
Firefighters have described State Government moves to introduce random drug and alcohol testing across the brigade as an unnecessary invasion of personal privacy.
Fire Brigade Employees Union State Secretary, Jim Casey said the State Government move was unwarranted, given there was no established problem with drug and alcohol abuse among firefighters.
“There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest firefighters have a problem with substance abuse and on that basis, we see this as a gratuitous invasion of personal privacy,” Mr Casey said.
“Nobody asks Mike Gallacher, the NSW Cabinet or their staffers to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.
“State Government ministers make multiple-billion dollar policy and investment decisions all the time. How do we know their judgement is not impaired by substance abuse?”
The brigade already has effective drug and alcohol protocols in place that have been supported by the union.
Random drug and alcohol tests represent nothing more than a waste of time and money.
“Firefighters run into burning buildings every day, they’re highly aware of the need to remain sober while on the job,” Mr Casey said.
“This policy is an insult to our professionalism and personal privacy. The Government has made no case for its introduction.”
Media enquiries: Jim Casey 0419 267 555 or Darin Sullivan 0422 436 044
Union inflamed by plan to extend random drug testing to firefighters
Sydney Morning Herald – page 3
Saffron Howden- SMH
August 29, 2011
The Fire Brigade Employees’ Union says drug testing its members is unwarranted and invasive.
PROFESSIONAL firefighters are threatening industrial action over plans to introduce random drug testing in NSW fire brigades.
While police officers have been subjected to tests for illicit drugs for more than a decade – and pilots and train, bus and ferry drivers also agree to them as an employment condition – paramedics and firefighters have so far been exempt.
But under a new draft drug and alcohol policy developed by Fire and Rescue NSW and obtained by the Herald, the state’s 7000 full-time and part-time firefighters will be made to give urine samples for alcohol and drug detection for the first time.
”Measures adopted under this policy to gauge whether the standards are being met will include provision for random, targeted and post-incident [or] serious-injury drug and alcohol testing of all employees,” the new draft policy states.
But the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union said random testing was unwarranted and invasive. There had been only one known incident involving illegal drugs or alcohol in the brigade over the past few years and there were extenuating circumstances in that case, the union secretary, Jim Casey, said.
”The case for this cannot be made,” he said. ”We have had no examples of drugs or alcohol on station in the last five years.”
The existing drug and alcohol policy worked effectively, Mr Casey said. ”We see this as an unnecessary expense, an invasion of members’ privacy and the money would be better spent on front-line services instead of secret police who would be conducting random urine tests of firefighters,” he said.
Mr Casey said the union and Fire and Rescue were in negotiations over the draft policy, including over the type of testing regime. Industrial action would be considered, he said.
However, he maintained the move was hypocritical.
”Nobody asks [Emergency Services Minister] Mike Gallacher, the NSW cabinet or their staffers to submit to random drug and alcohol testing,” Mr Casey said.
Fire and Rescue NSW said it could not understand why firefighters were objecting.
”It will … provide independent assurance to the government, community and firefighters themselves that there is no question about the reliability and professionalism of FRNSW fire fighters,” a spokeswoman said.
”Any testing regime will be fully cognisant of privacy issues and will draw on learnings from other organisations that have already gone down this path.”
Mr Casey said there was no sign of a problem in the brigade.
FIRE BRIGADE EMPLOYEES’ UNION
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