March 5, 2007

The Full Bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) handed down a new D&D Award last Monday, 26 February following 18 months of long and difficult negotiations between the Union and the Public Employment Office. At the heart of the delay was the employers’ firm refusal to adjust the off-duty benefit in line with firefighter contributions unless the Union agreed that members would fund all future off-duty benefits. To quote from Commissioner Mullins’ letter to the Union dated 15 December 2006 – 

“… the most significant issue, the indexation of ‘Off Duty’ benefits for Firefighters, will be agreed subject to the principle that Firefighters meet the long-term cost of ‘Off Duty’ benefits. This has consistently been the Government’s position in negotiations.

 This means, in effect that, for any Firefighter with an eligible ‘On-Duty’ Death, Total and Permanent Incapacity, or Partial and Permanent Incapacity claim for a work-related injury or illness, the benefits available under the Death and Disability Award are funded by the employer. A Firefighter with an eligible ‘Off-Duty’ Death, Total and Permanent Incapacity, or Partial and Permanent Incapacity claim receives benefits as provided for in the Award, which are funded by Firefighters’ contributions (from salary). It is important, in achieving the resolution of this matter (such that the 2006 Death and Disability Award can be settled) that the FBEU acknowledge that Firefighter contributions will appropriately fund ‘Off-Duty’ benefits.”

 Unfortunately for Commissioner Mullins and the Government, the new Award ended up being made without the Union conceding anything. The 2003 Award made it clear that members make a fixed contribution and the employer pays for the rest, and that’s how it’s  stayed with the 2006 Award. Expect them to come back for another crack at us in 2009. 

A full copy of the new Award (the official title of which is the “Crown Employees’ (NSW Fire Brigades Firefighting Staff Death and Disability) Award 2006”) is now available on our website, but the three main changes from the original 2003 D&D Award are as follows: 

1.      The off duty death and TPI lump sum benefits have been adjusted (eg, from $250,000 to $280,000, and so on) in line with % increases in permanent contributions since 2003. 

2.      A new death and TPI lump sum benefit of $12,000 has been introduced for:

  • permanent members in SASS with Additional Benefit Cover (ABC); and
  • retained members in SASS with Additional Benefit Cover (ABC); and
  • retained members in the EISS or LGSS “Retirement Scheme” with Additional Benefit Cover (ABC); and
  • retained members in the EISS or LGSS “Defined Benefit Scheme”; and
  • retained members in SSS, the JPS or PCSF; and
  • retained members who are also members of the NSW Police Force. 

3.      For retained members who are not listed in point 2 above and who are therefore entitled to the D&D Award’s full benefits, contributions have increased to $396 pa, or $33 per month. For retained members who are listed in point 1 above and who are not therefore entitled to the D&D Award’s full benefits, there is a new, reduced contribution rate of $132 pa, or $11 per month (ie, 1/3 of the full retained rate).

Simon Flynn

State Secretary