The independent London newspaper

Street sweepers face sack after surprise drugs tests detect cannabis

'Be reasonable' plea as union protests against Veolia's random checks

08 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

STREET sweepers have been told they will be dismissed after testing positive for cannabis following a surprise drugs check.

Council contractor Veolia tested staff at the Holmes Road depot in Kentish Town after implementing a new “zero tolerance” drugs policy earlier this year. The company said names were drawn at random from a payroll list that could have included managers and the chief executive.

The staff were told to urinate into a cup when they arrived for the early shift on October 18. Dismissal meetings were being held yesterday (Wednesday) with union chiefs, who are balloting members about potential strike action.

GMB rep Dennis McNulty said: “They are dismissing people for cannabis. You have to ask yourself: is this reasonable? I mean if you start doing that, half the country’s ruled out? One guy has been working there for 15 years.” Staff facing dismissal do not drive vehicles but carry out grime-busting tasks many people would shy away from.

Mr McNulty said: “They have tested for every single drug, and are saying if you come to work with any drugs in your system then we will dismiss you. It is not about health and safety in the workplace. It is about being punished for whatever they do on the weekend.”

Veolia introduced a new drugs policy to “provide a reliable and above all safe working environment” for employees. The policy says that drug use “compromises the company’s interests” and that it has “employed a company with a properly accredited and experienced laboratory to undertake the workplace drug and alcohol testing programme”.

A statement from Veolia said: “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.   “Our staff work on busy streets, and with the public. Drugs and alcohol impede an individual’s judgement and can put themselves, the public and colleagues at risk.”

Staff with alcohol readings over the legal limit would face dismissal.

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