March 14, 2003

As expected, the explanatory notes which were faxed to all stations/workplaces on Tuesday have led to further questions being asked by members. For the benefit of all members, following on below are our (necessarily brief) answers to some of those questions.

Members are also advised that some final (and minor) amendments have been made to the proposed Award during the course of discussions with the Government this week. Those amendments can be found, highlighted in red type, in the latest Award draft which can be downloaded (in pdf format) by clicking here. The explanation for these final amendments is as follows:

Subclauses 7.1.2 and 10.2.2 – this amendment ensures that the D&D pensions will mirror SSS pensions;

Subclauses 7.1.7 and 10.2.7 – this amendment has the same meaning as in the original subclauses, but says so in clearer language;

Subclauses 7.1.10 and 10.2.10 – these are new subclauses which reflect the intention that the pensions would be paid as per SSS pensions;

Subclause 9.3 – these words were inserted to clarify that the employer’s responsibility for a firefighter’s personal medical expenses is limited to on duty injuries only (as is the case for SSS members). The words “unless that benefit is conferred upon the firefighter by such statutes” will protect members’ existing rights with regard to journeys to and from work.

We fully appreciate that the proposed Award is complex, and members are again encouraged to phone, fax or email the Union office with any questions you might have.

Finally, and further to the meeting details already announced on Tuesday, members are advised that the Sydney North Sub-Branch will now be meeting on Monday as follows:

SYDNEY NORTH

Monday 17 March – Crows Nest Fire Station, commencing 6pm


Q. TPI/PPI? The Union’s notes say that the difference is whether you will be able to gain employment of similar skills and wages. Why doesn’t the Award actually state that?

A. There is a great deal of legal precedent for the interpretation of TPI and PPI, which is why it’s not necessary to expand the definitions within the Award. Suffice it to say that those precedents support the explanation given in the previous Union notes.

Q. I have not been able to find in the award how long the pension is paid for. The notes say for life, the Award doesn’t. Who’s to say that at 65 the pension doesn’t stop and you go to the old age pension?

A. Conversely, there’s nothing which provides for the pensions to be cut off. Further, the TPI pension reverts to your spouse upon your death. How else could that happen if it wasn’t paid for the life of the pensioner? In any event, the Government has agreed to the insertion of new subclauses at 7.1.10 and 10.1.10 which make it clear that the pensions will be paid and indexed as per SSS.

Q. What if your knocked off your push bike while trying to get/or stay fit for the job and you suffer PPI. 2 years and then nothing?

A. No. It’s clear that for permanent members the 2 years of rehab and retraining prior to redeployment to alternative duties will be the rule, not the exception. See clause 9 (in total) and subclause 14.2 again.

Q. In our current Award, “firefighter” means “an employee classified as a Recruit, Firefighter (Levels 1 to 4 inclusive ), Qualified Firefighter, Senior Firefighter or Leading Firefighter.” Does this mean that there will be different health and fitness standards, or perhaps no standard at all for officers?

A. No. The D&D Award has a different definition of “firefighter” which basically ensures that every firefighter, permanent and retained, Recruit to Chief Superintendent, will eventually be subject to the agreed health and fitness standards. The only exceptions will be the Commissioner and the 5 Assistant Commissioners, who (unlike the rest of us) are not employed under the Fire Brigades Act.

Q. Why doesn’t the D & D Award cover travel to and from work as on duty?

A. The Government flatly refused to recognise travel to or from work as being on duty on the grounds that there is that there is no “special risk” for firefighters in doing so – ie, everyone does it. That being said, the 24/7 scope of the D&D cover means that if you’re not covered for on duty, then you’re covered for off duty, so a member who is killed whilst driving to work will still receive the $250,000 lump sum payment in addition to their super and workers comp entitlements.

Q. Are the benefits offered under SASS re death and/or TPI (with additional benefit cover) superior to what is on offer, or would members with additional cover be better protected by withdrawing from that cover and opting for the full 1.5% cover under the new scheme?

A. The ABC in SASS steadily declines with your age to the point where you end up with no additional benefit at all by age 58. D&D, on the other hand, stays at a constant $250K for off-duty death or TPI all the way to age 60, and doesn’t reach $0 until you’re 65. Further, the D&D on-duty death/TPI benefits are the SSS pensions, whereas the SASS ABC provides lump sum payments.

Is one better than the other? That’s a question that only you can answer, but SASS members with ABC will have three months to do so. The Union won’t be making any recommendations, but we will try to spell out some of the issues for members to consider before you make your final decision.

Q. Why do we have to pay 1.5% for something that the Government should be supplying to us? If we get hurt or killed on the job then shouldn’t it be the Government’s responsibility to look after us and our families?

A. Members’ contributions will only be going towards the cost of the off duty cover. Remember that the D&D Award will provide death, TPI and PPI cover – both on and off duty – for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. There are 168 hours in a week, of which permanent members work 42 hours. That leaves 126 hours per week of off duty cover. Permanent or retained, the Government is more than paying for the cost of all of your on duty cover.


Chris Read
State Secretary