December 23, 2005

Inside this issue:

  • Staffing and checking of appliances at jointly-staffed stations
  • Retained availability “not an issue”
  • Refreshment and meals
  • Union calendars
  • Christmas/New Year shutdown

Staffing and checking of appliances at jointly-staffed stations

In August 2001 the Union issued a notice instructing Permanent members to check/maintain/wash only their station’s pumper or aerial pumper (as the case may be), and for the rostered driver for that shift to claim and be paid the (then) motor drive allowance. Similarly, Retained members were to check/maintain/wash any and all other appliances at the station, and to claim and be paid for all time spent doing so as per Standing Orders and clause 6.7.1 of the Retained Award.

Whilst the removal of the old motor drive allowance (being one of several changes to the permanent Award’s Clause 6 that took effect on Friday 25 November following endorsement by members at the July 2005 SGM) did not alter the intent of that instruction, continued feedback from members and an ongoing review of Union policy led the State Committee to adopt a revised, more comprehensive policy to better provide direction for permanent and retained members at jointly staffed stations.

The instruction of 13 August 2001 has been superseded by the revised policy set out below, effective immediately. This revised policy is to be observed by all members and shall remain in force until  directed otherwise by way of further notice from the State Secretary.

FBEU policy on staffing of appliances at jointly-staffed stations

1.    That subject to points 2 and 3 (below) and the maintenance of safe and effective minimum staffing at all times, each appliance at every jointly staffed Station may be staffed at the discretion of the Station Officer by either permanent members, retained members, or a combination of both.

2.    That hazmat appliances (including vans and composites) should only ever be staffed by permanent members within the Newcastle, Central Coast, Illawarra and Greater Sydney areas. Further, and beyond these areas, that hazmat appliances should only be staffed by retained members, except where there are more than four permanent members available for that particular shift, in which case the excess permanent member(s) may then (and only then) staff a hazmat appliance.

3.    That with the exception of aerial appliances (including aerial pumpers), which should be staffed and operated only by permanent members, all members attached to a Station should be trained in and qualified to operate all appliances and equipment attached to and/or located at their Station.

4.    That at all jointly staffed Stations, the permanent members should generally remain committed to the staffing of their Station’s primary pumper (or aerial pumper, as the case may be). Similarly, retained members should always ensure that if (and/or whenever) there are no permanent members on shift at their Station that the primary pumper is the first appliance to be staffed with a safe minimum crew of four.

5.    That subject to point 2, permanent members should not check or maintain any more than one appliance per shift, thereby leaving the Station’s remaining appliance(s) to be checked and maintained by the Station’s retained members in accordance with the Retained Award’s authorised duties provisions. Provided that if the permanent staffing for a given shift is in excess of Station Officer and three permanent firefighters, then the excess permanent member(s) should then (and only then) staff, check, operate and respond in a separate and additional appliance.

Retained availability “not an issue”

The Union has launched yet another unfair dismissal case against the Department, this time for a retained member whose attendances fell below the 50% minimum (BY 1%!). The Union is arguing on behalf of the member (whose attendances over the relevant period stood at 49%, or 1% below the technical minimum) that personal circumstances must be taken into account. The Department’s (and in particular Region North’s) view appears to be that if you fall below the 50% – regardless of whatever problems you are facing – then you’re gone.

What makes this case particularly interesting is that the member, despite being classified as a day worker, was regularly attending calls between 0600 and 1800 in addition to night and weekend calls. In a stupid technicality (and one which the Union is arguing needs an urgent overhaul) day time responses are not taken into consideration when calculating a day workers’ attendance figures. Under the current system, it is quite possible for a retained firefighter who attends 100% of their station’s daytime calls, but falls just short of the 50% requirement for night and weekend calls, to be sacked.

This is even more outrageous when you consider the Department’s increasing need for daytime availability and our ongoing disputes with management (and Region North in particular) over daytime availability and safe minimum staffing.

The Department has argued before the Commission that when push comes to shove, a day worker’s attendance between 0600 and 1800 doesn’t count for anything. Retained members who are classified as day workers decided could now be forgiven if they decided to save themselves the bother of getting to day time calls altogether. More to follow….

Refreshments and Meals

(Note: This is a copy of a previous Union notice that has been reproduced for benefit and guidance of members)

Both permanent and retained members are entitled to refreshments after two hours attendance at an incident and to a substantial meal after four hours at that incident, followed by a further substantial meal each and every four hours thereafter. For example, for a 13 hour incident you should receive refreshments after the first two hours, and a substantial meal on the fourth, eighth and twelfth hours. Members should note that refreshments only fall due once during an incident (after the first two hours), but after that they are then superseded by substantial meals every fourth hour. So in the above example, refreshments would still fall due after 2 hours, but would not fall due on the sixth or tenth hours.

Whilst the provision of refreshments and meals is clearly tied to attendance at incidents, it is reasonable that where a station attends a number of calls without returning to the station that it can be considered as attending one continuous (and very large) incident. If (for example) City of Sydney’s Flyer was responded to so many successive calls that its members could not return to their Station for over two hours, then refreshments should be provided. Further if a station is performing brigade business, receives a fire call and as result is away from the station for more than 2 hours in total then it is again is reasonable for a refreshment to be provided, or a meal where the time away from the station extends beyond four hours.

OH&S considerations dictate that the Union is consistent in demanding the provision of meals in preference to the payment of allowances after the event. The awards provide a clear incentive for the Department to do so, because refreshment and meal allowances become payable if:
a) members did not receive any refreshments/meals (as the case may be); or

b) the refreshments / meals (as the case may be) were provided, but arrived too late; or
c) the refreshments / meals (as the case may be) were provided, but were not of an acceptable or appropriate standard.

In fairness to the Department, the Union doesn’t expect every refreshment or meal to arrive exactly on time (though they should still be close) and we’d encourage members to be reasonable in making all claims.

It’s also the case that the appropriate allowance should be claimed if refreshments or meals were provided on time, but were not of a satisfactory standard. Acceptable refreshments are generally in the form of both hot and cold drinks together with light snacks (such as biscuits). Substantial meals, however, have proven to be a bit more controversial.
The awards define a “substantial meal” as “a meal similar in standard to that provided by domestic airlines to inflight passengers travelling interstate economy class.” Whilst this is only a guide, it does provide some indication of the sort of meal which should be provided (such as hot meat dishes with vegetables, etc). We’ve had reports of some members being fed two slices of buttered bread (but with no filling), and others only a couple of apples and a can of soft drink. Suffice it to say that neither of these could be considered to be “substantial” meals. Again, members are encouraged to exercise judgement (without compromising your award rights) when assessing whether or not the meals you received could rightly be considered to be “substantial” – both in terms of their quantity and their quality.

And finally, members with special dietary needs (ie, diabetic, vegetarian, halal, etc.) who have notified the Department of same are also entitled to have their needs catered for. It follows that the allowances are again payable if these needs were not met.

The allowances for both permanent and retained members are currently as follows:
•    Refreshment Allowance = $10.55
•    
Meal Allowance = $21.10

Union calendars

The Union recently posted 2006 FBEU wall calendars to every station/workplace. A limited number of spares are available on a first in, best dressed basis – requests can be directed via email to office@fbeu.net

Christmas/New Year shutdown

The Union Office will close for its annual Christmas/New Year break today, Friday 23 December and resume operations on Tuesday 3 January. Members requiring assistance over this time may contact an on-shift State Committee of Management official (check our website for details).

Thank you to all members for your support throughout 2005. On behalf of the Union’s officials, industrial and administrative staff, I extend our best wishes and compliments of the Season to all FBEU members and your families.

Craig Harris
State Secretary