A barely coherent rant about workplace drug testing. Sorry, short of time today. - Tactical Ninja
Apr. 9th, 2013
09:26 am - A barely coherent rant about workplace drug testing. Sorry, short of time today.
So does it count as a sleep in when you wake up at 4:30am and doze until your alarm goes off at 6:30? Because I think if that's what I'm going to get, I'll take it. ;-/
Meanwhile, this morning we discussed putting another blanket on the bed. Summer is over, isn't it? *sadface* But, on the upside, it's not long till my birthday! And also, graduation! And before either of those, Psychedelic Science! The next month or so is pretty exciting! Here is another exclamation mark!
So it seems that being sacked for a false positive is now a risk for any employee who submits to drug testing in New Zealand. Oh joy. Especially oh joy when you see how popular drug testing is becoming here.
I was shocked when one of our staff applied for a job at a large government corporate office. It wasn't a job that required heavy machinery use or being 'in the field'. She would not be dealing with people. She would be working at a computer all day, and yet the organisation felt it necessary to get this 50s woman to pee in a cup to prove she doesn't do any drugs in her free time, in order to be allowed to work for them. Alcohol, naturally, is fine. So is gambling, rock climbing, playing football, horse riding, taking part in threesomes, skydiving, smoking, or being in an abusive relationship - in fact, pretty much any activity that's considered either risky or 'morally questionable' (in the respect that it falls outside societal norms), and can potentially affect one's productivity in the workplace, is totally fine - but drugs, they test for. Because drugs are bad, mmk?
Also, because drug testing is big business, and it seems that big business drug testing folks are quite good at convincing those of use who've grown up immersed in drug war propaganda that drug testing increases productivity. Have a look at that google search. The ones that aren't articles questioning whether drug testing actually does increas productivity, are nearly all produced by drug testing companies. That's right, we're being told that drug testing increases productivity, mainly by people who stand to make money from more people being tested. Well that's convincing!
Meanwhile, here's an article in which drug testing organisations get together and celebrate their inroads into convincing states in the US to test welfare beneficiaries, and contemplate how they might implement compulsory drug testing in schools, talking about children as a 'huge untapped market'.
I do not think these people have safety and welfare considerations foremost in their minds, despite what their marketing material would have you think. And yes, New Zealand's government is jumping on the welfare drug testing bandwagon to0.
And the weird thing is that employers are implementing drug testing of employees for no reason. Their stated reason is "We need to have regard for the safety of our team members, and of course, the public at large.". But in almost the same sentence, they say there is no obvious drug problem at that workplace.
So, um, why again are they doing it? Oh yeah that's right, because the people who stand to make money from drug testing are flat out convincing anyone who will listen that drug testing is necessary for safety and productivity.
So, um, is it? Well, I'm finding my research capabilities somewhat limited by my lack of access behind goddamned paywalls, however a quick search through Google Scholar produced these results: yes-ish, no-ish, and maybe. That last one says that of people who were pre-employment drug tested in a blind study, those who tested positive had higher absenteeism and were sacked more often, but there was no significant difference in accident numbers and safety issues between the two groups. That 'sacked more often' thing interests me. Without seeing inside the study, it's kind of hard to tell whether they were sacked because of having tested positive for drugs, eh? Oh yeah, and here's one about how unreliable the results really are.
But anyway, it seems the jury's out on the productivity thing. The book I just finished reading (David Nutt's one) pointed out that drug testing creates an atmosphere of mistrust and control, where employers exert power over employees' bodies, and that this in itself can produce low morale, which in turn leads to lower productivity. So there's also that.
But one of the big problems I have with drug testing, that you don't see in the marketing material, is that whatever they test for, people will find other things to take. I am personally aware of situations where this happens - those who are subject to drug tests on a regular basis simply find substances that do not show up in the tests - often things that aren't as well-known as 'the usual suspects' - and use them instead. And then there's the thing where cannabis stays in the system for a longer period than heroin - would you as an employer rather your staff had a joint, or a taste, on the weekends? And frankly, what business is it of yours?
Also, I present Courtenay Place on a Friday night as an example of NZ's finest young folk, off their faces on drugs, who will most likely turn up on Monday and do their job despite their hangover, and everyone will be all "Have a good weekend?" "Yeah mate, barely remember it, it was AWESOME!"
Here's a thing in which one of our economic research teams in NZ tried to put a monetary cost on drug and alcohol use. You'll note that in terms of lost productivity, alcohol accounts for a far bigger chunk than other drugs. But alcohol's legal so that's ok, and we can sack people for pot. Neato!
So what does drug testing achieve really? I mean, apart from screening out those who refuse - the potential troublemakers - and ensuring that our workforce is compliant with whatever demands employers might make on their bodies and privacy, both in and out of working hours? Which is, let's face it, in line with the government's stated goal of producing a 'flexible workforce'. If you'll submit to drug testing, you're probably ok with casualisation, split shifts, and erosions of worker rights such as, you know, the minimum wage or the requirement for due process before being sacked. Remember the guy up there, sacked on the spot for a positive drug test that turned out to be false? Hmm..
It seems to me that what it does is make little old ladies pee in cups for the sake of being seen to be doing something, and line the pockets of those with a vested interest in popularising drug testing, while driving those with potential problems underground and encouraging the use of more dangerous drugs. Surely having employment policies that allow employers and employees to work together if and when a problem is identified is more likely to have a positive result?