Win for workers as blood tests are shelved

Nicholas McCallum

MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday 13 November, 2019

A multinational engineering firm that was forcing workers on a Queensland gas project to submit to blood tests in order to secure employment has backed down following a legal push by the Electrical Trades Union.

A fortnight ago, the ETU revealed that SNC-Lavalin, a new contract-holder for the project, was requiring prospective employees to submit to blood tests in order to retain their work on Shell’s Queensland Gas Corporation project at Chinchilla.

Under legal waivers the workers were asked to sign, there was no legal requirement to inform the workers of the outcome of the tests. The contractor also had the legal right to send workers’ data, medical records and blood samples overseas, to countries that do not comply with Australian privacy laws.

It meant a worker could test positive to a life-threatening condition and miss out on employment without even being informed of their medical status.

The ETU filed proceedings in the Federal Court arguing the requirement to undertake the blood tests breached the Privacy Act. Late yesterday, the company backed down, fully scrapping the tests and resolving the issue.

ETU national assistant secretary, Michael Wright, said the victory set an important standard.

“There was never any legitimate argument to force these electrical workers to submit to blood tests. This company’s invasion of workers' privacy was horrifying and we are pleased they have backed down.

“No employer needs the information SNC-Lavalin was seeking. The fact they were trying to use a backdoor to avoid privacy laws was deeply concerning and led us to believe the real intention was to compile a genetic ‘black list’ which could then be used by other employers.

“Employers across the nation ought to take note of what has happened. The privacy and dignity of workers is paramount. Our union will defend it vigorously.”

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Zoe Power

0419 499 886, [email protected]

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