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Issue #1529      30 November 2011

A win against “dodgy” testing

There were happy scenes outside a courthouse in Newcastle NSW recently when a decision made by a Fair Work Australia judge ruled in favour of the Mining Division of the CFMEU who were representing five workers who were in some cases wrongfully suspended from work for failing a “dodgy” drug and alcohol test.

The workers who work for a very big well-known “Australian” mining company also known as “The Big Australian” were randomly selected for drug and alcohol testing at their workplace, a very big open cut coalmine on the outskirts of Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW. The five people came up positive to a popular synthetic drug (similar to marijuana) that, at the time of testing, was not banned from sale or use in NSW. The five people were suspended from work after meeting with some of the senior mine bosses and were told that they cannot return to work until they provide a clean sample of urine.

They were also told that they could send their B sample to a laboratory in Western Australia for analysis at their own expense. The problem with that exercise is that there is no standard for that synthetic drug in any testing facility so the result would be inconclusive. Some of the suspended five were out of work for 12 weeks or more and with the cost of rent and food here in the Upper Hunter it was undoubtedly a very costly 12 weeks for all.

Despite all efforts for a sensible and peaceful resolution to this problem the “Big Australian’s” attitude did not shift. They were determined to hang these five workers out to dry and make an example of them. This jackboot attitude by the company only made the case for legal action by the five workers more determined. The scene was set for quite a showdown with the mine’s senior bosses and their barrister lining up against the CFMEU’s legal team. It didn’t take long for the company’s legal argument to be smashed by the union’s legal representatives. The outcome was that the five workers were to be fully reinstated back at the mine with no loss of pay or conditions.

Apparently the mining company bosses were not happy with the decision and looked totally dejected as they left the courtroom. This result proves beyond any doubt that union solidarity is alive and well amongst the Hunter Valley coalminers and that it also proves that the big companies can be beaten.  

Next article – Film Review – Toomelah

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