The summary dismissal of 300 drivers by a Pretoria-based outsourcing company, who said the drivers all tested positive for cannabis, raised a lot of questions among fleet managers. The former drivers’s hero now turned zero, Arnoux Maré, managing director of Innovative Staffing Solutions, fired the 300 drivers when they allegedly tested positive for having cannabis in their blood.
Maré’s outsourcing company is one of those rags-to-riches stories and he currently subcontracts 1000s of drivers, security guards and cleaning staff. While the unions are not happy with the lack of job security that comes with such outsourcing, the bottom line is Maré shouldered the risks and gave many people jobs, even if such jobs paid “slave wages”. He also runs an apprentice driver training programme by having junior drivers in the cab with senior drivers, a learning process very effective to giving drivers experience. If this innovative company had dismissed their drivers for testing positive for dagga three months ago, it would have been business as normal. Mines and fleets all have zero tolerance policies for staff who try to operate heavy machines while under the influence of drink of drugs. For as Maré explained in a media statement a truck driver “under the influence of cannabis can be likened to a non-coherent person barrelling a 60-tonne missile down the road at 80 to 100km per hour”.
Two problems with zero tolerance for dagga
But this ignores that two big problems all HR managers now face with this zero tolerance policy. The first is that cannabis use at home is now a legally protected, constitutional right. The second problem, as good labour lawyers are currently pointing out in the U.S. and Canada, is that there is as yet no reliable test to show if a person is “under the influence” of cannabis. Which is why fleet managers are all wondering, does Maré have such a test? Or did his staff use the same subjective approach as is used by police in U.S. states and in Canada, where officers have been trained to check for balance and coherence by asking drivers to walk on a line and recite the alphabet?
When people do walk the line and recite their ABCs, the cops report that, while such persons test positive for cannabis, they are not under any influence that detract from their driving. Their observations are supported by numerous driving tests of drivers who were asked to smoke cannabis before and during the tests, from Australia to the U.S. These smoke-and-drive tests consistently delivered mixed results, with regular users showing no or very little impaired driving.
One lawyer advised DriverNews that if the mass dismissal took took place as reported, it is unconstitutional and could go straight to the Labour Court without first stopping at to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, (CCMA).
Meanwhile, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) called on any of the drivers that were dismissed to call the driver’s union. Satawu’s spokesperson Zanele Sabela said the union would take the matter further if any of the 300 drivers that were reportedly fired contacted them, but despite an appeal for this, the drivers are silent. Right now all she has to work with are claims in a media statement.
Please call Satawu on 011-403-2077, or contact Satawu on Facebook, so that we can take the matter further.
*This article was first published on The Driver Digest.
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