September 12, 2003

Inside this notice:

  • Award negotiations begin
  • Senior firefighters eligbility to sit SOPP
  • Salary Sacrifice – Stargarden claims another victim
  • Breakfast allowance dispute
  • Inspectors acting up to Superintendent
  • Eligibility for Rescue Allowance
  • Rank Insignia – Higher Duties and the Crown
  • Policy reminder re Police Operations
  • Policy reminder re Helmet Stickers – Its your choice
  • Eagan’s Fire Service funding review

2004 Award negotiations begin

Negotiations with the Department for new permanent and retained awards formally commenced on Tuesday 9 September, and will continue to be held each Tuesday and Thursday until both Awards are finalised. That’s something which both parties have a stated intention to finalise by late November – well before the expiry dates for the current permanent (23/2/04) and retained (31/3/04) awards.

Having only met twice, it’s too early to provide any details just yet however regular updates will be posted on our website and faxed to members’ stations/workplaces throughout the course of these negotiations.

Senior Firefighters’ eligibility to sit SOPP

In Orders 2003/17 stated that “to be eligible for the pre-entry test Senior Firefighters are required to have three years service at that rank at the closing date for applications, and …”.

The Union approached the Department on the matter after receiving numerous member inquiries, which isn’t surprising given the less then clear direction provided by the Award.

Whilst it was today agreed that the Award should be amended so that in future all of the relevant deadlines are beyond doubt, it was also agreed in the interim that the date at which members will be required to have 3 years’ service as a SF up will be the date of the Pre-Entry Test itself and not the closing date of applications. It follows that if your 3 years’ at SF rank falls due anywhere between 10 October and 20 November, then you are now eligible to sit.

Salary Sacrifice – Stargarden claims another victim

Despite having been aware for months that the Union would be seeking the implementation of new public sector Salary Packaging arrangements, and the actual variation of both the Permanent and Retained Awards by the IRC in June to allow for it, the Department has now advised that the upgrading (?) of the infamous Stargarden payroll system means that this award entitlement will not be available to members until December – at the earliest.

The Union does not accept that the needs of a shoddy payroll system should come before your Award entitlements, and will therefore shortly commence action to force the implementation of your salary packaging options.

Breakfast allowance dispute 

The Department recently conceded, after many months of resistance, that Breakfast Allowances (Clause 26.3.1.1 of the Permanents’ Award) are payable to members who undertake recalls to maintain minimum staffing requirements. Unfortunately, it took the filing of an application by your Union in the Chief Industrial Magistrate’s Court to recover a member’s unpaid entitlements before your employer finally saw reason.

The conditions for the payment of Breakfast Allowances are as follows:

–          you are required to perform official duty at a temporary work location;

–          you are not required to reside away from home (so it’s a one day journey); and

–           you are required to commence travel to the temporary work location at/or before 0600 hours and at least one and a half hours before your normal commencing time.

For example, if you’re stationed at (say) 52 Campsie, your normal starting time on day shift is 0800 hours. You perform a recall due to staff shortages at (say) Picton commencing at 0600 hours, so you meet the relevant criteria and are therefore entitled to a Breakfast Allowance (which is currently set at $17.70).

Members who meet these conditions should make a claim for Breakfast Allowance on a Miscellaneous Voucher (with the appropriate details) in the usual way. Members who have had previous claims rejected should re-submit your claims (you may claim back for 6 years).

Inspectors acting-up to Superintendent

The cat leaped out of the bag during the course of yesterday’s Award negotiations when it became clear that not everyone on the employer’s side of the table was aware of the provisions of Clause 7.3:

7.3       While a Senior Officer who relieves an Executive Officer shall be remunerated for the period of relief in terms of subclause 7.2, such employee shall, with the exception of provisions relating to hours of work and overtime, retain the conditions of employment applicable to a Senior Officer. In relation to hours of work and excess hours such an employee shall, for the period of relief, be covered by Clause 42, Hours of Work.

For clarification, Inspectors who act-up to Superintendent retain their relieving entitlements if they do so at anywhere other than their “base station” (ie, Inspectors receive the higher rate of pay and the applicable relieving entitlements – not the former in lieu of the latter).

Eligibility for Rescue allowance

A dispute has also arisen over the subject allowance at 6.6.21 of the Permanents’ Award:

6.6.21  The amount set at Item 24 of Table 3 of Part D, per rostered shift, if qualified as a rescue operator and recognised as such by the State Rescue Board.”

The issue in question isn’t so much when you qualify for payment, but rather when you cease to qualify for it. The Department has adopted the approach – which is wrong – that you automatically cease to be entitled to the allowance as soon as you are transferred out of a rescue-accredited station. The fact is that subclause 6.6.21 currently makes no connection whatsoever to your station, rescue or otherwise, and that you therefore remain entitled to the allowance regardless of where you are whilst ever you remain qualified and recognised as such by the SRB.

Rank insignia – Higher Duties and the Crown

If you were surprised about last Friday’s In Orders 2003/18 concerning rank insignia and higher duties, so were we. Frankly, there was no need for it and it raised more questions than it answered. The Union has sought a meeting with the Commissioner.

Whilst on the subject (and noting the return on 1 September of all NSWFB officers to blue shirts), why do officers’ cap/helmet badges have crowns?

Former Commissioner MacDougall made the bizarre (and no doubt costly) move right on the eve of the republic referendum, and after more than 90 successful years with just one cap badge for all. Indeed, why is the crown on any NSWFB officer’s rank insignia?

If memory serves us correctly, the current officers’ epaulettes were the direct result of a drive by the-then Liberal Police and Emergency Services Minister Terry Griffiths (aka “Inspector Gadget”) for standardised rank insignia across all emergency services. Why the NSWFB, or the public, needed to align firefighters with Police officers is anyone’s guess, but that – and his kitting out of the Ministerial car with 300 aerials, flashing lights and sirens – ended up being his two primary policy achievements.

We welcome Commissioner Mullins’ decision to ditch the white shirts, and call upon him to go the extra yard by now dropping the crowns too in favour of, well, anything (eg, the NSW coat of arms). It would be disappointing, to say the least, if it took Australia to become a republic before Griffiths’ monarchist legacy to the Brigades was finally scrapped.

Policy reminder re Police operations

Members are reminded that NSWFB personnel and equipment are not to be used in police style operations (eg. quelling of civil disturbances, capture or removal of persons – including “squatters” – from buildings, crowd control etc). This is an important and long-standing policy of both your Union and your employer. This is not of course intended to stop NSWFB operations that interface with police and other service operations, such as counter-terrorism HAZMAT operations, USAR etc.

Policy reminder re Helmet ID – It’s your choice

Back on 20 October 2000, the Union issued a notice on this subject which read:

“Continued feedback from many members, permanent and retained, suggests that support for the

wearing of surnames on helmets is running at a rate of about 10-15 members against to every 1 member for. And while the members who support the concept generally aren’t too worried one way or the other, the members who oppose the ID are positively dead against it.”

On 17 November 2000, the Union confirmed that:

“Further to previous notices on this issue and plenty of member feedback (both for and against), the State Committee has determined the Union’s policy on helmet ID to be one where it is up to the individual member (ie not the Station or the Platoon) to decide whether or not to wear it. In short, it’s no longer against Union policy to wear the helmet ID, but the Union will also fully support any and every member who decides, for whatever reason, that they don’t want to wear it. If anyone says that you have to, tell them it’s a Union instruction that you don’t.

It’s come to our attention that many of the new helmets now being issued are automatically arriving with the member’s name on the rear sticker. Members who receive such helmet tape who do not wish to display their name are advised to order new – blank – rear tape

Egan’s fire service funding review

The NSW Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan MLC, last week announced a review into the funding of the state’s fire services with wide ranging terms of reference, including to:

4a.        ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that all those that benefit from the provision of fire services contribute to funding the fire services;and

4b.        broadly match funding contributions to the level of service provided to the taxpayer and/or the risk of fire affecting each taxpayer;

If that sounds to you like “user pays” and higher charges for taxpayers in NSWFB districts, then you’re probably right. And forget about extra funding, because point 2a requires future funding arrangements …  [to be] as near as possible to cost neutral”. Submissions close 10 October

Chris Read

State Secretary