CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Street sweeper sacked after random drug test takes legal action

'It's not like I came to work high,' says dismissed worker

04 January, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A STREET sweeper who lost his job a week before Christmas after a drugs test came back positive is taking legal action.

The man, who has worked in Camden for 15 years, lost an appeal against his dismissal by council contractors Veolia, who have recently introduced a “zero tolerance” approach to staff found with drugs in their blood. Around 25 staff at the Holmes Road depot in Kentish Town were asked to take a snap test, which the GMB trade union says was unfair.

The employee, who has not been named, said: “I did do something a few days before the test and they got me bang to rights on that, but it’s not like I came into work high. It showed up because it was still in my system.”

He added: “I asked them to let me take another test as part of my appeal, and I passed. But they want me gone. I’ve been there a long time and I’m on a higher rate of pay.”

The GMB says it will take the case to an employment tribunal, questioning why other staff who tested positive for recreational drugs had been treated differently.

Veolia says the test in October picked employees at random, but the union say it was effectively everyone who happened to be at work on that particular morning.

As revealed by the New Journal, staff were lined up in the early hours of the morning and were told to give urine samples. Our story led to a debate on whether workers who take recreational cannabis should lose their jobs over how they spend their spare time. The testing service is provided by another company for Veolia, which won an eight-year environmental services contract.

A statement said: “On October 18, a random drug and alcohol test was carried out at one of our Camden depots in line with company testing policy. As a result of testing there were a number of non-negative results.  In line with company policy, investigations were conducted and appropriate action taken. We are not able to comment on individual cases.”

It added: “Our staff work on busy streets, and with members of the public. Drugs and alcohol impede an individual’s judgment and can put themselves, the public and colleagues at risk. As a result we take a serious stance on drug and alcohol-related issues.”

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