May 11, 1998

In the most concerted attack ever on professional firefighters, New Zealand Fire Service management has announced that every professional firefighter will be sacked by July, and replaced by new “Fire Officer” positions. The ‘dis-established’ firefighters will have to compete for the reduced number of new positions available alongside volunteers and the general public. 100’s of jobs will disappear.

The similarity to the Australian waterfront dispute is no coincidence. Like the MUA (and FBEU), the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU) has 100% membership amongst the country’s professional firefighting staff. Like ‘honest’ Chris Corrigan’s Patrick Stevedores, NZ Fire Service management have one real goal in mind – to de-unionise the existing workforce. With the Union out of the way, management will be able to carve up jobs, wages and conditions with ease.

This comes on top of last year’s revelations that Kennett was secretly preparing a plan to sack all of Melbourne’s 2000 MFB firefighters. It is now abundantly clear that no firefighter’s job is safe – and that many current firefighters and union members will lose their jobs if these plans are not defeated. What should be clear to all FBEU members is that NSWFB management would sooner or later adopt a similar approach against YOU if the NZ Fire Service is successful.

The rhetoric now being used by NZ management is exactly the same as the nonsense that is continually spewed forth by the buzz-word zombies of NSWFB senior management. It’s not surprising given that they are all members of the same employers’ union – the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) – which is the body responsible for coordinating the future direction of the NZ and Australian fire services. Commissioner MacDougall is AFAC’s current President.

The FBEU State Committee of Management last Friday resolved that our Union should provide all possible assistance to the NZPFU in the event that our NZ comrades are sacked. Commissioner MacDougall will also be asked to explain the NSWFB’s position with regard to this outrageous development and, as President of AFAC, the position of that organisation also. Further information will be provided as it comes to hand, but an initial critique is provided for the benefit of members on the following page. Remember, this isn’t mere speculation – it is happening as you read this notice right now, just across the Tasman.

Stay United!

Some of the main points of the NZ employers’ plans follow below, with direct quotes from management’s announcement being featured in italics.

  • all professional firefighters’ positions will be terminated by July, 1998
    “The modernisation process means that all paid firefighter positions are disestablished and new very different fire officer positions are created”, and
    “expressions of interest will be sought from both within and outside the present service for the proposed new ‘Fire Officer’ and ‘Senior Fire Officer’ positions that will replace the disestablished ‘firefighter’ jobs of the current service.”
  • all new ‘contract’ positions will be advertised externally
    “anyone with the necessary competencies and aptitude will have the opportunity to apply for employment in the new structure, however selection must be on merit.”
    “The shift in focus of the Service’s work means the present firefighter job and skill sets are not adequate.”
  • there will be vastly different ‘new’ wages and conditions
    “together with the new role and very different skill sets, these conditions will amount to a complete break from the past. Some of our existing paid personnel may find that these arrangements are not suited to their lifestyle, vocational interests or aptitudes. Employees will, therefore, have an opportunity to consider the arrangements on offer and to express their interest in such roles.”
  • including several new, non-10/14 rosters, ranging up to 56 hours per week
    “A series of different work patterns have been designed with different features appropriate to a broad range of circumstances; management will consider their requirements in each location to determine the optimum configuration.”
    “work will be arranged according to local need”
    “employment conditions will reflect best practice and private sector practice”
  • the extension of volunteer (not retained) firefighters’ roles
    “paid personnel will provide support to and interact with volunteers . . . including mixed crews”
    “Generally beds will not be needed . . . The exception is that it may be appropriate to provide beds in some volunteer stations to enhance response times.”
  • the loss of S/O & 3 minimum staffing (and at least 25% of the existing jobs)
    “The (new) crewing guidelines provide for a three person crew as the standard. Prior to finalising the new guidelines, the experience of similar brigades in Australia that have operated on the same basis [ie S/O & 3] was examined. This further confirmed the total viability of this [the new S/O & 2, or less] pattern of crewing.”
    “Service outcomes [will be] achieved by both a smaller . . . paid work force, and an expanded and better resourced volunteer work force.”

Chris Read

State Secretary Monday 11th May, 1998