February 14, 2007

The Union’s Special General Meeting scheduled for 10 am on Wednesday 21st February in the Trades Hall – Goulburn Street Sydney is likely to be one of the more controversial in recent years. In one week alone the Union’s Country Sub Branch (CSB), representing permanent Union members in the country, and the Retained Sub Branch representing retained members have each received a notice calling on rank and file members to vote either for or against item 1 (Overtime, Staffing and Management of Jointly Staffed Stations) on the SGM agenda.

Members are now being called upon to vote in opposing ways based almost entirely on their employment status rather than on the merits of the proposal. This is no way for our Union to operate. All members are urged to attend meetings wherever possible, to listen to the arguments for and against the policy and to hear for yourself what the Union’s State Committee of Management has put forward and why it has done so.

The SGM agenda appears to have generated so much passion that some members are now receiving anonymous phone calls, abusive emails and calls to resign from office. While the Union encourages healthy and robust debate, the place for all members to express their points of view is on the floor of a Union meeting in a structured and proper way.

The State Committee is recommending that all three motions on the agenda be accepted, as we believe they are in the best interests of ALL Unionised firefighters in NSW. Not all members agree with this, as is their right. That’s why we have General Meetings – to allow the rank and file the opportunity to either support or reject the position the State Committee of Management has adopted.

The two notices circulated from CSB and RSB members have polarised rank and file members and taken focus off the proposed policy. While this hasn’t been pleasant, it is part of the democratic process that has been such a strong feature of our Union for nearly a century.

Not all members may not like what they are hearing, but again that is a part of the democratic process. It is regrettable that these notices have appealed to sectional votes from the rank and file, as opposed to calling for a vote on the basis of the interests of all FBEU members, and perhaps this raises issues as to how we organise the Union’s sub-branches in the future. However for the present these are legitimate contributions to the debate. If you have an issue then take it up on the members forum, or at the General Meetings.

The items on this SGM agenda will impact on all members, not just those outside the GSA. I again urge all members to make the effort to come to a meeting, to listen to the debate and to make a considered and rational decision.

Simon Flynn
State Secretary