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‘Cattle management’ scan plan hits snag

A plan to introduce biometric scanning for library workers at a Melbourne council is under a cloud after meeting resistance among councillors and workers.

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Monash City Council’s human resources department came up with the plan, which would require library staff to provide DNA samples and have their veins scanned using pattern-recognition technology to clock on and off for a shift.

The HR department also proposed to adopt the new rostering and payroll system in other council departments.

Monash councillor Geoff Lake said the council administration “ought to be the decision maker of such significant change” but not been consulted on the use of the biometric technology.

“I’m flabbergasted that council officers at Monash are so out of step with the views of the Monash community… that they would be looking at this type of cattle-management technology to manage our most important resource, our staff,” he told AAP.

A meeting of councillors has been called for next Tuesday to consider the plan.

“My recommendation to my colleagues will be that we adopt a policy that prohibits council from introducing this sort of an approach to rostering, unless there’s a special case which is made to council and decided in an open and public forum,” Cr Lake said.

Monash City Council chief executive David Conran said the use of vein readers for library staff would be voluntary and would only be implemented if there was wide acceptance by staff.

“We would not consider implementing any system where the security of confidential information could be compromised and we are confident that we can address any security concerns should the vein reader technology be introduced,” Mr Conran said in a statement.

Australian Services Union (ASU) assistant branch secretary Igor Grattan says members are concerned about the security of their personal information and its storage.

He said swipe cards or PIN codes were preferable methods for workplace timekeeping or security purposes.

“It’s got to be easier than storing people’s personal information, especially when we don’t know what it all means in the long term,” Mr Grattan said.

“You’ve just got to take a deep breath and think about people’s privacy.”

Mr Grattan said his members had been advised not to comply with the plan.

Victorian Privacy Commissioner Helen Versey said any organisation considering the introduction of biometric technology should conduct a thorough assessment of its privacy implications.