BLOOD TEST: Three vials of blood were required by SNC to determine if a worker was ‘fit for work’. Pic: Getty Image
BLOOD TEST: Three vials of blood were required by SNC to determine if a worker was ‘fit for work’. Pic: Getty Image

Multinational backflips on workers’ blood tests amid privacy concerns

A MAJOR energy company contractor has backtracked on plans to have jobseekers submit to blood tests in what has been described as a serious breach of privacy.

Prospective electricians, mechanical workers and operators applying for roles at Shell’s Queensland Gas Corporation project at Chinchilla were asked by multinational engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to submit three vials of blood.

The company claimed the blood testing, which was introduced in mid-October, was to screen for cardiovascular health such as high blood pressure, diabetes and the likelihood of a heart attack.

SNC has however now agreed to scrap the tests and destroy the blood samples after the Electrical Trades Union Australia filed proceedings in the Federal Court arguing the requirement to undertake the blood tests breached the Privacy Act.

The Electrical Trades Union South West Queensland organiser Dan McGaw said the practice set a dangerous precedent for all workers in Australia.

“They can basically discriminate against workers not based on their work performance but purely on their health conditions,” Mr McGaw said.

“They say they wanted to do a thing called cardiovascular score… which sounds fine, but we engaged an independent cardiologist to do a report into this and the cardiologist said it’s only got a range of about 30 per cent accuracy so it’s pretty vague.

“This blood test does not prove fitness for work it just opens up for discrimination.

“We already know it’s harder for older people to get into work, this is just another level of that.”

Potential employees were asked to sign paperwork waiving their rights, allowing SNC to share personal and medical information with third parties overseas.

Mr McGaw said he was first contacted by applicants who were concerned about the unusual requirements.

If any health problems were uncovered by the tests Mr McGaw said SNC were not legally obligated to inform the worker.

ETU national assistant secretary Michael Wright said workers’ privacy and dignity are paramount.

“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,” Mr Wright said.

“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.”

While the blood tests were scrapped on November 12, Mr McGaw said a new medical application has been issued by SNC which now requires a rectal and prostate examination.

“I had dozens of members raising concerns, they’ve been in the industry their whole lives, whether in the Surat basin or elsewhere, they’ve never had to undergo these sort of tests, so why now?” Mr McGaw said.

QGC and SNC-Lavalin did not respond to Chinchilla News’ requests for comment.

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