The USU, along with the other Energy Unions, met with Essential Energy Senior Management including CEO John Cleland on Thursday 11th October to discuss the proposed new Drug and Alcohol Policy.

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Management outlined their reasons for wanting a new policy including:

  • That Essential operates in a high risk industry
  • Statistics show that rural and regional areas pose an unacceptable risk towards high drug use
  • That the policy will be used as a deterrent
  • To change social attitudes towards drug and alcohol abuse

Management said that they will be providing support and assistance to employees to comply with the changes.

The Unions responded to Management with our concerns outlined below but not limited to:

  • We do not support a zero threshold for alcohol as this does not comply with Industry Standards and Transport NSW thresholds for heavy vehicle and passenger vehicle which is set at 0.02.
  • Concerned with random urine testing due to privacy concerns for employees particularly for women and workers who operate in rural outback areas where access to toilets is limited.
  • Concerned with how Essential Energy are going to support employees during and following the implementation period due to support services being extremely limited in rural and regional areas.
  • Concerns regarding the disciplinary process should an employee not pass a drug or alcohol test and sought further information regarding the Fair and Just Policy.
  • There was also concerns raised regarding confidentiality particularly around the notion of employees having to declare medications to their manager.
  • Concerns around how the self-testing for employees would be managed on a no prejudice basis particularly if an employee self-tests and has concerns coming into work.

The Unions have also sought more information regarding the ignite program which management discussed which is said to provide an Individual Health and Wellness Strategy for employees.

The USU also put to John Cleland that we did not support a process whereby the unions would be discussing the D & A Policy with Essential Energy separately and that we wanted collective union meetings with Essential Energy and Officials and delegates. John agreed to this and Essential Energy will be setting up timeframes for discussion shortly.

The USU has nominated 4 delegates to take part in these discussions with one from Broken Hill, one from Central West and two from Port Macquarie. Both Essential Energy Officials Rudi Oppitz and Melissa Pond will also take part in these discussions.

The USU will keep members informed regularly during these discussions so please keep an eye out for flyers and the Energy Facebook Page.



We would love your feedback regarding this process as well as this will assist us in gauging your responses and expectations regarding the proposed changes.

You can do this by emailing Rudi or Melissa on their emails below or by contacting your delegates who are listed below. Our delegates will be regularly meeting to discuss the process and can relay you feedback directly to the USU D&A Team. If there are any non-members who are interested to join and take part in the discussion please encourage them to join here or by providing them with the Organiser’s details.

Essential Energy Officials
North Coast, Central West and North West – Melissa Pond mobile 0408 620 741 or
Southern Region – Rudi Oppitz mobile 0409 662 460 or

Essential Energy Delegates
Leanne New – Mudgee
Daniel Welsh – Port Macquarie
Ruth Smallwood – Port Macquarie
Linda Thompson – Port Macquarie
Judy Cutler – Port Macquarie
Peter Arnull – Grafton
Peter Anderson – Tamworth
Mark Lenton – Broken Hill
Bryan Spangler – Broken Hill
Mardi Henman – Leeton