The council chambers - inside staff have been undergoing random drug testing. Photo: Jerad Williams
The council chambers - inside staff have been undergoing random drug testing. Photo: Jerad Williams

Council staff caught using ice

COUNCIL workers have been caught using ice and suspended from work for a cocktail of illegal drugs following random drug testing at City Hall.

Drug testing began at council in late 2016, but until now the only report which had surfaced was about two staffers being sent home after testing positive for alcohol.

The Gold Coast Bulletin has obtained an internal report on the testing program, which shows in the year to date 4177 random drug tests have been conducted, with a focus on two directorates.

The screening found 29 suspicious cases, which included 12 for amphetamines, three for benzodiazepine, two for methamphetamines and 12 for opiates, which covers legally-prescribed drugs like morphine and illegal substances including heroin.

At least two positives were determined for amphetamines and methamphetamines which could include ice or speed.

Council workers rallying about wage negotiations - behind the scenes there has been angst about the focus of drug testing. Picture Glenn Hampson
Council workers rallying about wage negotiations - behind the scenes there has been angst about the focus of drug testing. Picture Glenn Hampson

The report reveals 1210 tests were conducted on staffers in the Transport and Infrastructure department, which covers city cleaners and road workers.

While more than 900 workers were tested in Lifestyle and Community, which includes park workers, library staff, lifeguard and animal management teams.

Council sources say the screening program, which costs up to $1 million a year and involves a nationally accredited Australian company, is dividing employees.

Testing for the make-up of an ecstasy tablet.
Testing for the make-up of an ecstasy tablet.

A council source told The Bulletin it was common for staff to "bolt" when testers arrived.

"Supervisors have sent directives to staff saying no-one should duck out of testing," the source said.

But a city spokesman maintained there was a "high level of co-operation and acceptance".

"The program is recognised as an important feature of safety and feedback from staff is that this is well accepted," the spokesman said.

Asked about the 29 tests leading to suspicion of serious drugs use, a council spokesman said, "The vast majority of non-negatives are consistent with declared medication with no indication of illicit drug use. This indicates staff are co-operating."

The report obtained by The Bulletin confirms 11 positive tests were recorded for alcohol this year, but council declined to give the readings.

The council declined to comment on why the focus was on transport and lifestyle sections, only saying "sites are selected at random by the testing vendor".

The spokesman confirmed the testing included senior managers, contractors, subcontractors, labour hire and trainees.

Bond University criminologist Wayne Petherick said he was "not surprised in the least".

"Methamphetamines and cannabis are very popular recreational drugs, it's when you get into the category of ice that it becomes problematic," he said.

Dr Sonu Haikerwal said drug use was widespread across the community.
Dr Sonu Haikerwal said drug use was widespread across the community.

While Gold Coast Medical Association president Dr Sonu Haikerwal said drug use was widespread across all professions in the community.

"Drug use (while on the job) is very widespread and it is not affected by background, profession or socio economic factors," she said.

"It is across the board, people don't realise the impact drug use can have on mental health, the breakdown of family structures not to mention other dangers."

Union leaders previously voiced concern the testing excluded elected representatives, including councillors and the mayor.

Council CEO Dale Dickson, at the time, said councillors unlike employees were employed under Queensland laws which covered their conduct.

Dale Dickson (left) with Mayor Tom Tate - the CEO believes random drug testing of staff is critical part of council’s safety program. Picture Glenn Hampson
Dale Dickson (left) with Mayor Tom Tate - the CEO believes random drug testing of staff is critical part of council’s safety program. Picture Glenn Hampson

The latest report shows council is conducting urine screen and breath alcohol tests on all preferred candidates for jobs.

It revealed from the 880 pre-employment tests there were 28 non-negative test results of which 18 positive tests were recorded.

At least 11 of the potential employees tested were positive for cannabis, and five detected for amphetamine of which one was positive.



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