Less than two months after the Constitutional Court’s ruling permitting the private use of cannabis, a Johannesburg-based staffing company has become the first to test the judgment by firing 300 drivers after they tested positive for marijuana.
Innovative Staffing Solutions’ managing director Arnoux Mare defended the action, saying the legalisation of dagga did not mean drivers who test positive for the substance were not in violation of their work code and conduct.
Unions appeared to understand this, but questioned whether Staffing Solutions followed proper procedure.
South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) spokesperson Zanele Sabela said 300 was a high number and raised questions about the manner in which the drivers were tested.
“We advise the 300 drivers to initiate unfair dismissal cases against Innovative Staffing Solutions,” Sabela said. Mare, however, was adamant that the firm’s decision was correct and that his company could not take the risk of incurring damage to people or personal and public property.
“A trucker driving under the influence of cannabis can be likened to a noncoherent person barrelling a 60-ton missile down the road at 80 to 100km/h. If he or she loses control of the vehicle, innocent people are likely to lose their lives and infrastructure could be seriously damaged,” he said.
“This is similar to … alcohol. It may be legal, but being drunk at work is a dismissable cause.”
Mare said all their drivers signed a contract that specified the terms of their employment.
It stated that the employee undertook and understood that they were not allowed to work while under the influence of alcohol and/or intoxicating drugs, whether on the premises of the employer or a client, or any premises where duties were performed.
“We do not take dismissals lightly, but we cannot accept behaviour that could place people’s lives in danger or our business at risk,” Mare said. South African Federation of Trade Unions offered to represent the dismissed drivers. “
We will ensure that they are given a fair hearing,” said spokesperson Patrick Craven.