October 24, 2008

Today’s In Orders announce the introduction of refreshment packs and fresh incident catering for fourth alarm and greater calls. The Union has been consulted throughout the development of this proposal and agrees that in all instances the provision of food is preferable to the payment of the relevant allowances. Given the change in arrangements for providing refreshments and meals and the onset of the Bushfire period where extended incidents become more prevalent, the Union thought is was timely to remind members of all of their entitlements relating to fire ground meals.

Entitlements

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note that refreshments only fall due once during an incident (after the first two hours), but after that they are then superseded by substantial meals every fourth hour.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.

Multiple and concurrent incidents

Whilst the provision of refreshments and meals is clearly tied to attendance at incidents, it is reasonable for Brigades attending concurrent incidents to be considered to have been attending one continuous (and very large) incident. That is to say, members responding from one incident to another in rapid succession who couldn’t return to their station/base for over four hours would still be entitled to both refreshments and a substantial meal – even though they may have technically attended more than one incident. For example if 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.

The only exception to this rule is during major emergencies where retained members are “stood down” (for want of a better term) and accommodated overnight. These retained members (only) would not be entitled to refreshments, meals or those allowances for the period for which they were stood down, but travelling compensation entitlements instead.

When to claim the allowance

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.

Refreshments and Substantial meal

As part of the Departments new catering policy all appliances will carry refreshment packs that contain tea, coffee, sports drinks, bottled water, fruit tubs and muesli bars, provided these are available then the claiming of refreshment allowances should not be necessary.

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 that should be provided.

The Department’s proposal for fresh catering provides menus that should include a hot meal, selection of salads or vegetables, mixed breads and in most instances a dessert. If members do not believe that the meals they are provide with are substantial then they should notify the Incident Controller immediately so that meals can be improved on the fire ground either straight away or for future incidents.

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.

Special dietary needs

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 = $11.80

Meal Allowance = $23.60


Travis Broadhurst

Junior Vice President