Eskom to discipline workers for drug and alcohol testing.

DATE: 06 May 2004

Johannesburg Press release – for immediate release


This week, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) strongly condemns the compulsory testing of drug and alcohol to workers by ESKOM utility company. The new test policy procedure which was never negotiated with the union will affect 17 000 workers in the electricity distribution units. The random testing was met with resistance from workers. The company has issued new instructions that workers who refuse breathalyser testing will be regarded as absent and subjected to disciplinary action. The situation at the company is very tense as many workers remain aggrieved and wonder with disbelief in the manner in which managers have coerced the drug and alcohol test policy.

This is ludicrous, outrageous and embarrassment to the public utility company because there is no agreement with the union on drug and alcohol testing. There is no evidence of substantial drug or alcohol abuse that gave rise to the random testing. In fact, we will encourage workers to resist because this is a clear typical issue of unilateral variation of conditions of employment. This is violation of the rights to secrecy and privacy and against the constitutional principles of workers in a country that selfishly uphold democratic norms and values. NUMSA regards this as autocratic and borders on draconian measures. The irony of the whole exercise is that the “beneficiaries” are blacks. That is the reason why the company is implementing the policy. We do not believe that such coerced test policy will succeed. It has been proven scientifically that breathalyser drug and alcohol testing is not an accurate and effective measure of test.

ESKOM is arrogant and acted improperly. Certainly, the company has prejudged the matter and closed their minds. The management of ESKOM failed to live up to commitments to run the company efficiently and make a difference in policies. They have not played a leading role in improving the situation better for workers. The problem that plagues ESKOM is directly related to short-term perspective of managers who focus more limiting workers rights than building sustainable relations with the unions. The epidemic of union bashing will stay with the company as long as there is no regulation of activities. The rights of workers will remain under attack. The current labour policies at the company are confused and risky for workers.

For further information please contact Dumisa Ntuli -@ (011) 689 1700 or 0829737282)