Thanks to the coronavirus, 2021 has already had a rough start. While there are many signs of the pandemic being controlled, the life of the working class has faced a new set of challenges. As everyone is heading back to work, they are quickly discovering that things aren’t as normal as they once were. One thing that has changed is the constant drug tests that the workers have to take.
While these tests are for everyone’s safety, they do present a level of discomfort that cannot be ignored. That’s why workers at Vulcan Steel were given the right to choose what type of drug test to take. Whether it is saliva drug tests, or oral fluid drug test, or the traditional urine test, it is upon the workers to decide and this was made possible by the Employment Relations Authority.
The decision of introducing more than one way of testing was reached after the Workers Union and the company failed to reach an agreement after the workers presented a few demands after resuming work. One of the proverbial bone of contentions was the workers provisions which included alcohol testing. As a way to bring some normalcy, the workers were giving the right to choose how they were going to be tested as some were clearly not on board with the way the company wanted to test them, citing that some of these drug tests were invasive.
Drugs aren’t the only substance that will be tested the Vulcan Steel. There will be antigen swab test for COVID as well. The fact that there are now saliva based solutions for COVID and drugs of abuse testing can make resuming work protocols much easier to follow.
What the employees think
Before they got the chance to work at Vulcan Steel, each employee had to sign a contract in which they were given the chance to choose their method of testing. The employees assumed that it was the company’s responsibility to choose how they were going to submit their samples for testing.
According to their respective agreements, the workers assumed that the company will provide them with all the necessary drug testing kit or kits should they choose a method that was suitable for them on a personal level.
The employees didn’t understand why the company was insisting on using the urine drug test kit when they made it clear that they didn’t want it. In fact, most of them prefer the oral swabs which is an instant drug test with a number of advantages associated with it.
The oral swabs require less privacy and can allow for the test to be performed outdoors and socially distanced. This combined with the fact that both the antigen and saliva drug tests can give clearance to a worker in a timely manner before they enter the work site.
Vulcan Steel responds
While the workers celebrated the decision by the employment relations authority, it did seem as though Vulcan Steel didn’t sit well with the decision. The company was quick to file a formal complaint to the authority citing that they had a right to choose which method they would use to test their employees for drug use. They also sought out the right to kick start a disciplinary process for employees who were not only unruly but those who weren’t keen on taking the mandatory drug tests.
The steel company wanted the right to punish workers who were planning on not availing their urine samples on time and didn’t have a good reason for their shortcomings.
Thankfully for the workers, the Authority stood their ground by declaring that the company had no right to decide on how they were to be tested for drugs. It was within their right to make the decision. The Authority, through their bona fide member Philip Cheyne, declined the company’s plea to discipline the workers who wouldn’t provide their urine samples without a valuable excuse.
Mr. Cheyne claimed that they were still debating the problem and once they reached an agreement, the Authority would make an announcement. According to the agreement on their contracts, the employees had the option of choosing between hair, urine, or saliva samples being taken. The bone of contention is that the company is backtracking on their initial agreement and want to force their employees to only take urine samples.
The problem arises because the employees agreed to sign a consent form that gives the company the power to choose the relevant method of testing. And at this point, the company feels like collecting urine samples is the way forward for the company as well as its workers.
According to Mr. Cheyne, the Authority has found that the employees can only be disciplined should they refuse to take a drug test, something they haven’t done. But all they are asking for is the freedom to choose how they were going to be tested, which is in fact in their contract. All they want is for Vulcan Steel to grant them their wish and everything can get back to being normal. And that’s the consensus they are currently trying to reach.
After a quick deliberation which involved listening to both parties, the Employment Relations Authority reached a verdict. In as much as the steel company feels they have the authority to decide how their employees should get tested, it is within the employees’ rights to choose how they should be tested. Most of them have made it clear that they aren’t comfortable giving urine samples stating invasiveness as the main reason.
It is also written in the contract that they have the right to choose how to get rested. The only crime would be if the employees refuse to get tested for any drugs, which isn’t the case in this scenario. That said, the employment relations authority has passed a ruling in favor of the Vulcan Steel employees.
The company has been ordered to allow its employees the chance to choose between bringing in samples in accordance to their contract. Those who feel they can bring hair samples, urine samples, or present themselves for an oral swab should feel free to do so. In addition to that, the Employment Relations Authority denied the steel company the right to punish any employee who failed to submit a urine sample.
At this point, it does seem as though Vulcan Steel has no other choice but to play ball. Though they haven’t released an official statement at the time this article was being written, they are expected to do so in the next couple of days.