November 8, 2007

Inside this notice:

  • In Orders 2007/23 – Use of exercise equipment
  • New insurance arrangements for First State Super members
  • Risk Assessment worksheets banned
  •  Reminder on voluntary health assessments
  • Operation of relieving matrices
  • 2007 SOPP entitlements
  • Disclosure of personal details to Police
  • Workers who keep you safe rally – Nov 22nd

In Orders 2007/23 – Use of exercise equipment

In Orders 2007/23 issued on 26 October contained a policy item headed “Exercise Equipment” which contains two major changes from the previous policy. Those two changes are:
1 to cease to allow members to use their own, personal exercise equipment at their station. Members may now donate agreed exercise equipment to the Department, which will in turn then accept responsibility for its use and maintenance, but equipment not owned by the NSWFB is no longer allowed on the station. On balance, this amendment appears both reasonable and responsible; and
2 (the far more objectionable) the last dot point under point 4 “use of exercise equipment”, which directs that:

• personnel over 35 years of age wishing to use the equipment or commence an exercise program are to be cleared by the Brigades’ Medical Officer or their family physician.  Appropriate documentation such as a medical certificate and/or letter from a registered medical physician should then be kept on file at the station.

Not surprisingly, many members contacted the Union office to register their objection to the new policy. Following strong representation from the Union, the new policy will now been amended through tomorrow’s In Orders 2007/24 to simply recommend that:

• If you are over 35 and have not been exercising regularly, it is advisable that you get clearance from your general practitioner or the Brigades Medical Officer before using the exercise equipment or starting an exercise program.

New insurance arrangements for First State Super members

First State Super (FSS) members recently received advice from that Fund regarding new insurance arrangements that will take effect on 1 December 2007. Many members have contacted the Union to seek our advice on these changes, including how these changes impact on their Death and Disability (D&D) Award benefits.

Firstly, it has to be said that the insurance available under FSS (or, for that matter, any other superannuation scheme) is entirely separate from and independent of your D&D cover. Whatever happens with your FSS insurance will have no bearing on your D&D cover whatsoever. In other words, whether you have $1M cover under FSS, or no FSS cover at all, your D&D entitlement will remain exactly the same.

Secondly, whether the cover available to you under D&D is enough for your needs, or if you require additional cover through FSS and/or some other superannuation scheme(s) is entirely up to you. Do you have enough Death and TPI insurance? That’s something that only you can answer. The Union is actually prevented by law from providing advice of this nature, so if you are in doubt then you should seek advice from a suitably qualified and licenced financial adviser.

What we can tell you is that if you do nothing then your Death and TPI cover under FSS will be automatically increased from one to three units of cover, and this will increase the cost of your FSS cover from $5 per month ($60 pa) to $15 per month ($180 pa). You have until 31 January 2008 to reduce your units, or cancel them altogether.

Risk Assessment worksheets banned

The Department has written to the Union with regard to the various risk assessments that members are required to complete and retain. The letter confirmed what the Union already knows – that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, with risk assessments emerging from all corners of the Department without any coordination – or consultation. The most recent worksheet reported is the ‘Electrical Awareness and Risk Assessment Worksheet’, which members were told to complete and retain for at least seven years.

These various worksheets not only create new and onerous work for members, they also lack consistency and have no clear course of action when risks are identified. For instance, there is no point filling out a risk assessment worksheet and then shoving it in a draw for seven years, and members often report that submitted risk assessments have gone unanswered.

Members are instructed that no member is to fill out or submit any risk assessment worksheet until further notice from the State Secretary. The Union will now seek to reach agreement with the Department on risk assessments that are acceptable/appropriate, and on how those agreed risks should be addressed. Members should, however, continue to complete and submit Notification of Injury, Illness, Exposure and Near Miss (NIIENM) forms to the Department where a risk is present or an injury has occurred.

Reminder on voluntary health assessments

Last Friday the Commissioner announced a new wave of voluntary health and fitness assessments. The Department had such a low response with its invasive approach that it’s now allowing members to be assessed by their GP, forwarding on results only if they wish.

Whilst this puts members in control of their own health records – a move the Union has been advocating for some time now – this is only half the package. The Department has an obligation under the Death and Disability Award to provide a full fitness programme that includes practical support, education and assistant programmes.

Members are again warned not to take the Department up on its offer of free medical assessments through the BMO. Whilst the Union encourages members to look after their health, we advise that you do so through your own GP and only inform the Department of medical conditions where obliged (if in doubt, check with the Union).

Operation of relieving matrices

The Union has received numerous calls where members had claims for relieving kilometres wrongly rejected. It is timely then that we issue a reminder on how clause 12.7 works.
 
Where you perform a relief within a matrix, you are entitled to the amount set out in the corresponding entry within the matrix, located on the FBEU website under ‘Permanent Award’. Where you perform a relief in matrices that abut, you add the matrix distance from your home station to the station common to both stations, then that station to the relief station. For example, if you are based at No. 1 City of Sydney and perform a relief at No. 503 Wollongong, you add the GSA matrix distances from No. 1 Station to 33 Station, and Wollongong matrix distance from 33 Station to No. 503 Station.

For some reason, some in middle management are claiming that the distance is taken from your home to the relieving station. This is not the case. The distance taken for reliefs is your base station to the relief station. Nothing more, nothing less.

 Members who find they have had a claim under 12.7 rejected are advised to email the details to office@fbeu.net for review and further action.  

2007 SOPP entitlements

Permanent members sitting the SOPP Pre-Entry Test on Thursday 15 November 2007 are entitled to the relevant provisions of Clause 16 of the Award, as follows:

• Members rostered for duty on the night shift prior to the day of the exams (ie “B” Platoon’s second night) will be granted paid leave from 2200 hours to 0800 hours.
• Members who are rostered off duty on the day of the exam are entitled to choose to either be paid at overtime rates or be credited with consolidated leave calculated at overtime rates for the time spent attending the exams (see clause 16.10.2).
• Members who are on annual or long service leave may choose to be re-credited with the appropriate leave or be credited with consolidated leave for the time spent attending the exams (see clause 16.10.1).
• Time spent attending the examination is time worked. Therefore, the provisions of clause 9.9 (requiring an eight hour break) apply in conjunction with clause 16.11, those members who are rostered for night shift on the day of the exam should stand-off until they have had an 8 hour break from the conclusion of the final exam they attend. For example, if you finish an exam at 1600 hours and are rostered to start at 1800 hours that day, you should stand-off until midnight without loss of pay. If, however, you completed the examination at (say) 1700 hours then you would stand-off until 0100 hours the next day.
• If your travelling time to and from the exam venue exceeds two hours each way, or if the return distance from your residence to the venue exceeds 175kms, you are entitled to either be provided accommodation by the Department, or to the accommodation allowance prescribed by clause 26.4.1.
• Meal allowances, excess fares and travelling time may also be payable in line with Clause 26 – Travelling Compensation.

Disclosure of personal details to Police

Some time ago a member submitted a Suspicious Fire Report when he attended a suspicious car alight. He later received a call from the Police in relation to a suspected traffic infringement involving his car. The Police told him they obtained his mobile number from the Suspicious Fire Report he’d sent in.

 Members are advised that any personal information disclosed in Suspicious Fire Reports and statements to police – written and verbal – is retained and may be used by the Police Force for future (and often entirely unrelated) law enforcement purposes. It’s important to note that members are not required to use personal details, and can (and the Union advises, should) instead leave their fire station number and address for contact purposes.

 Workers who keep you safe rally – Nov 22nd

In conjunction with other emergency service workers, the FBEU is participating in a rally in Joe Hockey’s increasingly marginal seat of North Sydney. This will be the Union’s last chance before the election to protest against Howard’s woeful Workchoices legislation.

All members are urged to attend – the greater the numbers, the louder the message. Join us at

North Sydney Oval at  1100 hrs, Thursday 22 November

Please notify the Union asap if you require transport to the venue, as buses departing from various locations will be arranged.

Simon Flynn
State Secretary