February 21, 2008

At 10:30 am on Monday morning the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) terminated conciliation between the FBEU and the Government and issued Orders that an interim Award be established for permanent firefighters with a 2.5% increase in wages and a six month term. Further to this the IRC has referred our wage claim to arbitration by a full bench of Judges and Commissioners of the IRC with our next full Award set to expire on February 23rd 2011.

The Union has now served a log of claims in the New South Wales IRC that is seeking increases in wages and allowances based on a decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) concerning ACT firefighters. http://www.ufuact.asn.au/pr969233.htm This decision delivered substantial increases in wages and the Union has now sought increases on top of the rates paid to ACT firefighters with the first increase to arrive in August 2008 followed by 3.5% from February 2009 and 3.5% from February 2010.

Whilst the outcome of the wage claim is by no means certain the Union believes the claim is a very strong one given the decision of a competent court in the ACT. The Union has included in its claim an increase in employer contributions to superannuation for members receiving the bare minimum 9%. The claim for additional superannuation is a cost neutral exercise funded by the contributions currently paid out by the Department to members of the older more generous schemes. In effect – as members of the older schemes leave the money should be redirected into the superannuation accounts of members getting just 9%.

The Industrial Relations Commission has now given us a new avenue to prosecute our claim for increased wages. During the course of the next six months the Union will be pushing its claim in front of the IRC and will be arguing why each part of our claim should be upheld. The Government for its part is likely to strenuously oppose our claim for fear it may have a flow on effect to the rest of the NSW public service.

Our wage campaign has not stopped it has merely switched to another forum and in the short term will be argued out in the courts. Operational firefighters have had the value of their work critically analysed by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in relation to the cost of living in Canberra and our Union is now using the courts to push for these rates for all firefighters throughout NSW. Our work is no less challenging, no less complex and no less dangerous than our comrades in the ACT.

We do deserve a decent wage increase and it is not acceptable to sell off conditions or reduce fire services to fund it. If our Union is to win its claim all members will need to continue advancing our case in both public and political arenas. Posters are to stay all appliances, stations without a democratically elected delegate are to contact the Union office for delegate election forms and members should now be contacting local Members of Parliament and pushing them to publicly support our Unions campaign for wage justice.


Simon Flynn

State Secretary