Firefighters slam ‘invasion of privacy’
BY NADINE MORTON
31 Aug, 2011
PROFESSIONAL firefighters are threatening industrial action over a proposal to introduce random drug and alcohol testing.
The proposed testing will see the state’s 7000 firefighters forced to submit to drug and alcohol tests through the provision of a urine sample.
Until now, only police officers, pilots, train, bus and ferry drivers have had to submit to the testing, while firefighters have remained exempt.
Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (FBEU) country sub-branch secretary Tim Anderson said the testing was an unnecessary invasion of a firefighter’s personal privacy.
“The union hasn’t been a part of this process … we already have a drug and alcohol policy in place that was agreed on by the FBEU and FRNSW,” he said.
Mr Anderson said current guidelines see drug and alcohol problems treated as a health issue, but the new policy would see it treated as disciplinary action.
“We don’t condone anyone being at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol … [but] what people do on their days off is their own business,” he said.
“It’s the very nature of what we do that pushes the minority of cases towards this abuse … being exposed to very unpleasant incidents.
“Alcohol and substance abuse can be indicative of people who are exposed to these types of incidents on a regular basis … it should be treated as a health issue.”
Mr Anderson said there had only been a very small number of drug and alcohol incidents within the service over the last few years.
“Out of a workforce of 7000 employees, one or two incidents does not justify this approach to the issue,” he said.
The FBEU is concerned the proposed tests may be overused, with positive results possibly leading to the dismissal of firefighters.
Mr Anderson said the proposed industrial action could include work bans, but that decision would be made by the secretary of the FBEU.