CSIRO Executive have doubled down on plans to introduce a new drugs and alcohol policy – including randomised testing of staff – describing the controversial proposal as ‘a proactive and responsible approach.’
First revealed last November, the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) procedure set off a firestorm of criticism across CSIRO, with many staff expressing grave concerns over both the motivation behind the policy move and ramifications for individuals and the workforce, if implemented.
Following representation from the Staff Association – which remains opposed to the AOD policy in current form featuring random testing – CSIRO Executive extended an initial consultation period to late February and then went quiet on the proposal.
However, Executive have now since recommitted to the development of the policy, and announced the creation of an AOD Reference Group that will ‘engage representatives from across the business’ as work on the proposed procedure continues ‘over the coming months.’
CSIRO Executive recently justified the AOD procedure as ‘an example of taking a proactive and responsible approach to ensuring CSIRO is mitigating risks that have the potential to cause harm in the workplace,’ further citing the obligations of the Commonwealth WHS act (that) require responsible officers of CSIRO to demonstrate due diligence in taking actions to provide a safe place of work.’
CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks said that evidence to demonstrate these risks has not been provided.
“In February, we met with CSIRO and asked if a relevant work and safety risk assessment had been conducted prior to the announcement of the AOD policy proposal and got no answer; we still don’t have one.”
“CSIRO Executive remains unable or unwilling to report any workplace health and safety incidents involving employees under the influence of drug and alcohol, or identify specific risks to staff health and safety,” Ms Tonks said.
If the rationale behind the AOD policy proposal remains threadbare, the strong response from CSIRO staff is certainly very substantial, with Executive admitting to receiving hundreds of submissions from individuals and teams (not to mention the dozens of anonymised concerns relayed from the Staff Association).
After an analysis of the responses, advice from Executive states that the areas of the draft procedure for which ‘staff provided the most feedback included; the project methodology and evidence, privacy, trust and staff culture, testing details; impairment, blood alcohol concentration levels, equity and logistics of randomised testing location/site or job specific considerations, travel, hospitality and working from home requirements procedure corrections and or contextual clarifications.’
‘An analysis is underway to effectively address the breadth of input across these key focus areas,’ the advice says.
CSIRO Executive have announced the establishment of an AOD reference group ‘to engage representatives from across the business,’ while also committing to ‘conduct further research, seek advice from relevant subject matter experts, and workshop solutions.’
Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks confirmed that union representatives will form part of the reference group.
“While we remain opposed to the procedure in current form, the Staff Association will try to work constructively to improve this process by participating in the reference group.”
“To this end we have put forward an alternative policy – without randomised testing – incorporating a health and wellbeing approach, based on the principles of harm minimisation and consistent with protections outlined in privacy legislation.”
While confirming receipt of the Staff Association’s alternative proposal, CSIRO Executive have admitted that the first meeting of the AOD reference group has yet to be scheduled.
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