The Federal Labor Relations Authority has ruled that the government has the right to set up and run random drug-testing programs for its employees in critical or sensitive jobs, but that details of those programs, like safeguards for workers, are subject to negotiation between unions and government agencies.

The ruling, in a dispute between the Army and the National Federation of Federal Employees, is a split decision that gives both sides much of what they most wanted. It says government workers can be forced to take urine tests for internal security or safety reasons, but gives unions the potential to have a major say in how tests are run to safeguard workers. The Army had taken the position that no area of drug testing was proper for the bargaining table.

Some people object to drug testing in any form. Others agree that tests are necessary for safety or security reasons, or where there is a reasonable suspicion that workers may be using illegal drugs that endanger them or coworkers, affect their job performance, or subject them to blackmail. Of major concern, however, is how well (or poorly) drug testing is conducted, and what happens when employees who are not on drugs of any kind test positive.

Although the Federal Labor Relations Authority is the highest administrative appeal level for in-house government labor-management disputes, its actions may be appealed to federal courts. Dozens of cases are pending in which federal unions and individuals are seeking to block or modify drug testing programs, which are a major thrust of the Reagan administration.

The decision in the drug-testing case says that agencies and unions may negotiate issues such as additional protection for employees who might get false positive readings in drug tests, and also to allow employees to retain a part of any urine specimen they give to drug testers to get a second opinion from an independent testing source.

SEA Winners

Former Virginia governor Charles S. Robb will speak at Wednesday's breakfast honoring winners of the Senior Executives Association's excellence awards. Robb now heads the 20th Century Fund task force on top management in government. Executives to be honored at the National Press Club breakfast include James E. Denny of the Patent Office; Noel W. Hinners, James A. Downey III and John W. Thomas, National Aeronautics and Space Administration; James I. Owens, Internal Revenue Service, and William J. Edwards, Air Force. For reservations or information call 535-4323.

Privatization and Drug Testing

Two of the Reagan administration's major civil service efforts this year involve stepped up drug testing of federal employees and the conversion of civil service jobs to the private sector.

At 1 p.m. tomorrow on WNTR radio (1050 AM), Red Evans of the National Federation of Federal Employees will talk about efforts to safeguard workers rights. Sue Holliday of the National Treasury Employees Union will outline efforts of private contractors to take over federal jobs, and what is being done to protect the jobs of civil servants.