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Drug- testing ‘will creep’ into workplaces


imagesDrug-test manufacturers will be the big winners from the Government’s plans to screen beneficiaries, the Drug Foundation is warning. Yesterday the Government announced further details of its plans to drug-test beneficiaries. Legislation will be introduced to Parliament next month, with the proposed changes due in July next year.

Opposition parties immediately accused the Government of trying to distract attention away from the publication of the children’s commissioner’s child-poverty report.

Details of the Government plan revealed that experts would carry out “robust clinical assessments” to determine whether beneficiaries were recreational drug users or drug addicts. Companies would also be reimbursed for drug tests that beneficiaries failed.

Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell said drug tests were expensive and manufacturers stood to gain.

“They will be more actively going into workplaces and saying ‘Buy our services and don’t worry, the Government’s going to pick up the tab’.” Testing would creep into workplaces where safety was not an issue, he predicted.

For the past three years, temporary labour company Allied Work Force has drug-tested most of its new entrants. It also randomly tests staff and tests for any “just cause” such as accidents.

Chief executive Mike Huddleston said Allied Work Force had managers certified to do the testing, with each test costing the company $25. A test at a private agency could cost up to $100. The tests were imported from the United States.

People applying for jobs were told they might have to pass a drug test, he said. “On that basis, we lose as many as 50 per cent. Then there is another bunch that run the gamut and have a shot.”

About a third of those failed.

There was even less success with jobseekers referred by Work and Income, Mr Huddleston said. At least 50 per cent of the beneficiaries failed.

“We don’t source too many people from Work and Income because of the situation but by being much more selective about the people we have drawn from, it’s much harder for us to fill our numbers than it ever was before.”

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said 41 per cent of jobs listed with Work and Income required drug testing.

Beneficiaries who refused to apply for drug-tested jobs or failed tests would be penalised by having benefits suspended or cancelled.

Those who failed tests would be warned and given time to stop using drugs before having to take another test.

Those considered to be drug dependent would get help and some on prescription medicine would be exempt.

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