View Full Version : Qantas drug-test plan

14th Mar 2003, 10:24

Qantas drug-test plan
By Barbara Adam
March 14, 2003

QANTAS'S 38,000 employees would be asked to supply urine samples on demand under a proposed random drug and alcohol testing program.

The program is yet to be introduced because of concerns raised by the ACTU and unions representing the airline's staff.

Under the regime, employees would be asked to provide urine samples that would reveal the presence of illegal and prescription drugs taken during the previous three months.

The airline's proposed banned list includes prescription medications such as blood-pressure tablets and some drugs that treat cardiovascular conditions.

ACTU senior industrial officer Richard Watts said employees could be sacked if certain prescription or illegal drugs were found during testing.

"If you showed up with prescription medication in a drug test and you hadn't told your employer about it and gotten an okay, it would be a dismissable offence," Mr Watts said.

Telling the employer that certain medications were being taken could result in an employee being moved or forced to take leave, he said.

Mr Watts said many medicines were on the banned list simply because they carried warnings of possible drowsiness and the dangers of using heavy machinery if affected.

The ACTU also questioned the employer's right to test for illegal drugs.

"The employer has an obligation to provide a safe working environment but it's not the employer's role to be a moral guardian of society," Mr Watts said.

"Obviously, there's some drugs that are illegal but people take them, particularly young people.

"It doesn't necessarily mean they're impaired at work."

One alternative the union wants Qantas to consider is mouth swabs rather than urine testing, which would reveal whether someone had taken drugs in the past 48 hours.

"There aren't many drugs people take that will impair their performance for more than 48 hours," he said.

The ACTU is yet to form a firm position on drug and alcohol testing in the workplace but union officials hope to set a policy that would apply to public and private employers.

Mr Watts said the NSW government was expected to begin negotiations soon on a drug and alcohol testing program for the public-transport sector, including bus and train drivers and ferry captains.

Qantas confirmed it was negotiating the introduction of a new drug and alcohol policy with the ACTU.


14th Mar 2003, 10:46
A lot of companies have random tests.
when having usually asked what medication on--most prescription drugs ok unless it contains opiates etc.
If ya enjoy the odd smoke you will get done cause it stays in the system a long time.Tends to turn people to harder drugs which dont register after 3 days.
Most crap ,but then i wouldnt like a pilot flying me through pink and orange clouds lol

Disco Stu
14th Mar 2003, 11:41
Aussierotor, not all of QF's 38,000 staff are pilots!

We had a spectacular sunset here this evening, lots of lovely pink and orange clouds.

And I'm cold sober and aren't taking any drugs, prescription or otherwise.

Disco Stu;)

Apollo 4
14th Mar 2003, 12:21
Wake up and smell the coffee !!!!

We have a Flight attendant dispute and as we all know a great proportion of them love to party, especially on the other side of the pond.

Could be very convenient to have a few departures due to some illicit or medical circumstance.

It is really the ultimate management tool, how to completely intimidate, while being unquestionably focussed on safety.

Get use to it I say, when I got my first twin job random urine testing was all the go in the mining industry and that industry developed the protocols as a matter of necessity.

Interestingly enough though the mining industry classify drug taking as a medical issue and a 3 strike rule is widely applied.

There can be no question that safety is paramount and drugs have no place in aviation. Having said that where does that leave speed freaking US military pilots ? What do you think ?

Buster Hyman
14th Mar 2003, 12:33
So, they're looking for dopes at Qantas huh?.....no....nothing more to add.:}

Capt Claret
14th Mar 2003, 16:22
Without supporting QF's stance, I'd imagine that any employer could be held lible should an employee cause damage/injury/death whilst under the influence of any drugs, prescription or not. The latest buzz phrase, Duty of Care springs to mind.

As an aside, in a past life, delivering steel work to and from a hot dip galvanising plant in Northcote, it was common practice for many plant operators to drink all or part of a bottle of vino, over a joint or two, at lunch.

Stoned & p!ssed people falling into vats of molten zinc do not fare very well. :yuk: Not to think of the dangers of such people then operating machinery! :eek:

14th Mar 2003, 17:29
Sat "Melbourne Age"

Qantas plays down urine tests
March 15 2003

Qantas yesterday played down the significance of its plans to introduce random urine sampling of its 38,000-strong workforce.

The airline, Australia's third-largest private employer, has been negotiating the introduction of a new drug and alcohol testing program with unions for the past six months.

The ACTU has expressed concerns about the draft policy, which would test for the presence of prescription and illegal drugs taken during the previous three months.

It said the airline's proposed banned list included prescription medications, including blood pressure tablets and some drugs to treat cardiovascular conditions.

After three days of declining to comment beyond confirming it was being developed, Qantas yesterday released a statement on its proposed drug and alcohol testing regime.

In the statement, Qantas executive general manager human resources Kevin Brown said the draft policy would require employees to submit to breath and urine testing prior to employment, after accidents, upon reasonable suspicion and when asked to under the random selection procedure.

"Qantas has always maintained a zero-blood-alcohol and drug-free policy within all of its workplaces," Mr Brown said.

"Employees of Qantas and its wholly-owned subsidiaries are not permitted to consume alcohol or other drugs in public while in Qantas uniform."

Mr Brown said the policy was being developed because Qantas had a duty of care towards its employees.

"The new draft program follows best practice and legislative requirements and will incorporate three principal elements - education, rehabilitation and testing," he said. Further comment was being sought from Qantas.

Defence contractor Tenix has been trying to introduce random breath testing at its Melbourne shipyard.

Unions, including the Australian Workers Union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union have opposed the introduction of the alcohol testing program.

Tenix's 400 workers have been on the brink of a walkout for weeks, but on Thursday a temporary ceasefire was agreed to in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

The shipbuilder shelved its plans to sue the unions for damages and the union suspended the proposed industrial action.

The matter is expected to return to the commission in coming weeks for further talks.


14th Mar 2003, 21:40
Speaking as a minimalist alcohol imbiber and one who uses NO drugs, other than prescribed medication, I hope the relevant unions put a stop to this proposal immediately. If necessary, pull EVERYONE out, Tech crew, Cabin crew and ground staff at the same time to get the point across. A great deal of bulldust is broadcast in support of the proposal but, in my view, it's not justified. If management believe there is a drug/alcohol problem with any worker, let them report it to the real police, and not assume the mantle of judge and jury. "Duty of Care" is a concept which applies equally to worker and management, albeit in differing directions, and will not be enhanced by the forced submission of staff to random testing.

I'll now stand back and await the flak!

How are you and GG, Disco Stu?

Kind regards,

TheNightOwl. :mad:

compressor stall
14th Mar 2003, 23:54
In a previous life, yours truly worked for a subcontract crew of around 8-10 in a variety of different mine sites throughout Australia. Naturally upon arrival on site (or prior) we were subject to drug tests.

Occasion 1. Yours truly and the two supervisors all failed the initial test. Mine was for amphetamines which I have never ever taken in my life. The only medication I had taken was about half a packet of Anticols 2 weeks prior, and declared as such. This test was at a pathology lab.

Occasion 2. Peeing into the special test cup at a remote mine site. Completely failed the test for cocaine, which again I have never ever taken. There is a chance that the latter could have been a faulty cup, and it was not chromotgraphically tested.

This (in)accuracy could wreak havoc on one's career. Bizarrely though, the above minesites still let us all on site! :confused:

15th Mar 2003, 01:32
Drug testing tips


Hugh Jarse
15th Mar 2003, 04:03
*Thinks about falling into a vat of molten zinc*

"Zincmember" doesn't ring quite as well as Goldmember, does it?

Ishn't dat vierd? :} :} :}

15th Mar 2003, 07:24
I know of individuals who have been accused of taking opiates, after eating bread covered with poppy seed. Astounding !, yet the potential is there to destroy the career or credibility of a totally innocent individuals.
Unless QF want to sack many innocent (or naive) people, they should consider very carefully what they are proposing.

15th Mar 2003, 11:51
As a non drug user,most of us in the airline industry know the majority of pilots will have nothing to hide from drug testing as most value career extremely high and generally wouldn't be that stupid.Its really only cabin crew and ground staff who need to be concerned.The real concern is how do u replace so many cabin crew in one go,no doubt a large porportion won't pass a drug test!

Lurk R
15th Mar 2003, 14:06
Some time ago my wife failed a police roadside breath test in spectacular fashion - the problem being that she had earlier put some Bonjela mouth gel on an ulcer!!!

15th Mar 2003, 20:33
A king size cherry ripe in the five minutes before you blow in the bag will do the same thing!

16th Mar 2003, 00:37
I hope i am not 'biting' here but i think it is a rather broad accusation that no doubt many cabin crew wouldn't pass drug tests and it is that sort of attitude that employers use to bring in drug testing for all empoyees.
If drug testing was truely about making sure people are performing as they should performance based tests would be made, and then if you don't pass they can investigate further be it drug or alcohol intake, fatigue, illness, nutriton etc etc.
We have to be careful we aren't entering into some other moral or legal argument (not the employers task) and thus depriving people of their liberty NOT to be drug tested if they are against it.
It looks to me as if Qantas are just looking to be seen to be doing something about something when they are really doing nothing.!!!

Capt Claret
16th Mar 2003, 01:12
I agree with MAKK, with respect to the broad accusation that it is only cabin crew who partake in drugs.

From Merriam-Webster online dictionary;Main Entry: 1drug
Pronunciation: 'dr&g
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English drogge
Date: 14th century
1 a obsolete : a substance used in dyeing or chemical operations b : a substance used as a medication or in the preparation of medication c according to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1) : a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (2) : a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (3) : a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body (4) : a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or a component, part, or accessory of a device
2 : a commodity that is not salable or for which there is no demand -- used in the phrase drug on the market
3 : something and often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness

More than a few pilots over the years have flown within the mandatory 8 hours and it is not unheard of to hear pilots bragging about how p!ssied they got last night!

16th Mar 2003, 02:16
Some years ago a union where I worked issued legal advise that no person entering into an employment contract agrees to forgo basic civil liberties.At the time this advise was in regards to searches and detention. I imagine this would extend to a request for a sample. A bit hard to refuse perhaps when applying for a job but once employed who knows.
The advise also pointed out that company security persons have no power to search or detain and that even the police dont without warrant but do as a consequence of arrest. Customs, however, can do just about anything they want. In other countries you are again subject to their laws. Company management may wish to do this type of big brother stuff but do they have the legal authority in Australia?

16th Mar 2003, 02:54
I only know of one Pilot 'getting done' for drugs(marijuana from memory).

Obviously,lost his job from Ansett WA, flew charter for a while and last known position in Jail(Darwin) for armed hold-up.

Very sad and very real, hoss:sad:

16th Mar 2003, 17:16
The normal adopted procedures overseas are to stand-down an employee temporarily if a teat is failed until a second test is taken (and a third also).
Blood analysis may also be done to confirm in some cases.

Now in my career I have never seen a pilot take drugs but if they were to be breath tested (as is mandatory at sign-on in Japan) .....................

Now on the other hand if Flt Attendants were to be tested for drug use from what I have seen at parties (from strangers that apparently were Flt Att's) I imagine they would be dropping like flies.
Same with ground staff that tend to drive catering trucks into planes and have collisions in open spaces whilst dragging luggage trolleys around.

If you're clean what do you have to fear??

16th Mar 2003, 20:49
After being involved with a pilot for a great number of years, I've been under the impression that there's a huge alcohol culture in the aviation industry.

His last transgression was to ring me up pissed at 3.20am on the day he was due to sign on at 6.30am.

Luckily he decided not to show up.

His horror stories alone would fill a book.

16th Mar 2003, 22:35
Alcohol is by far the most widespread/abused drug taken. Know of several hundred pilot alcoholics, however all show up fit flight.
As fit as they will ever be. Also know of several dozen that smoke a little cannabis, same thing, no problem - fit for flight.

Cardiovascular conditions are screened at medical examinations.
Airlines are better off spending money developing health and fitness programs for many of the fat monkeys that are likely to croak it one day on short finals, by far the biggest concern.:hmm:

16th Mar 2003, 23:50
The biggest concern for pilots would be RBT at sign-on in the outports especially for the early morning departures. The truth is if you have a big overnight and stop drinking within the 8 hours you have no idea what is left in your system.

Ralph the Bong
17th Mar 2003, 00:09
Just for the information of all in 'Nam the rule is 8 hours for booze if a "small" amount is consummed and 16 hours prior to sign on if "more than a small amount" is involved. "Small" is not, however, defined...Personally, in an industry that demands a high level of reliability from staff, I think that is reasonable to require a drug-free workforce. There could be some pressure from insurers on this one too. I couldn't imagine many companies spending money on testing voluntarily.

18th Mar 2003, 03:47
An employer may implement any policy that it wants at any time. The issues witht he drug and alcohol testing policy are as follows:

a) Have all employees been widely educated as to its content, effect and implementation,
b) Has it been/ Will it be implemented consistently accross the workforce,
c) Is it justifiable and fair - this one is easy to justify and if it applies equally to all employees it is fair,
d) What guarantees are provided that the "chain of evidence" is uncontaminated. This refers to the sample that is taken and who has access to it at any time before the tests are concluded (more simply, can it be tampered with?).

The history of implementing these type of policies is quite interesting reading, mainly because of the resistance towards them from the employees. This is easy to understand when you read earlier posts that mention such things as civil liberties etc. But the fact of the matter is that there are no civil liberties in the employment relationship.

The comments made earlier regarding the inability of an employer to forcibly restrain an employee are quite correct, but then force is not necessary when you realise that the employer only has to say "stay where you are or you will be fired".

It is the same with this policy. If the employee wants to retain their job then they must comply with the policy. They will be told in no uncertain terms that if they fail to comply (provide samples etc.) then they will lose their jobs. Who needs physical force?

In the end it will come down to the industrial muscle of the employees concerned. Either they have the strength to stand up to the employer and say no, or, the employer will say this is the rule take it or leave it. With war around the corner and with little opportunity for other work, can anybody truly say they would refuse???

As for the reason for implementing the policy, well who knows, but if you, as an employee, were looking at two unsavoury issues, one of which was accepting a less than excellent Certified Agreement and the other was battling to the death over an objectional (but completely legal) policy, which would you agree to first? ;)

Hugh Jarse
18th Mar 2003, 05:29
In the end it will come down to the industrial muscle of the employees concerned. Either they have the strength to stand up to the employer and say no, or, the employer will say this is the rule take it or leave it. With war around the corner and with little opportunity for other work, can anybody truly say they would refuse???

A very interesting analogy. To me, in this real world pilots (AIPA/AFAP) will be tested, whereas the porters (TWU) will not.:eek:

19th Mar 2003, 21:20
Breath testing for alcohol will not solve the problem. It may help, but there are significant effects from alcohol intake, long after the blood alcohol has returned to zero.

The vestibular system is affected for up to 36 hours after a decent night, predisposing to spatial disorientation. Alcohol disrupts sleep for a number of reasons, and also has been shown to degrade performance in reaction time, decision making, etc. These effects are most pronounced in non-routine (ie. emergency) situations.

So lets be a bit responsible here, and not concentrate on just not getting caught.

The drug testing issue is a little more difficult. It can be difficult to relate cannabis use a few weeks previously, to a performance degradation on the day. Having said that, there is a lot of evidence of performance impairment and long term health issues from a whole range of drugs, both legal and illegal.