December 17, 2010

Fire and Rescue NSWInside this issue:

  • New century, new name
  • New century, new name – Part 2
  • ‘Auditor-General goes fully sick’ update
  • BICE letterboxing banned
  • 12(1)(b) dispute update
  • Retained Unit Trainers, a thing of the past

New century, new name

The Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon. Steve Whan, today announced that the 100 year old “NSW Fire Brigades” would be re-named “Fire and Rescue NSW” on and from 1 January 2011.

Late last month, Commissioner Mullins sought the Union’s position on a change to “NSW Fire and Rescue Service”. The Union’s State Committee met on 2 December and resolved:

“That State Committee:

a)           does not support the current proposal to rename the ‘NSW Fire Brigades’ as the ‘NSW Fire and Rescue Service’ given the proposed name’s failure to provide sufficient distinction between the organisation and the NSW Rural Fire Service, primarily due to the use of the word ‘Service’ which this meeting regards as out-dated, superfluous at best and an inevitable cause for confusion between the re-named organisation and the RFS; and

b)           confirms the Union’s in-principle support for the proposed ‘and Rescue’ insertion; and

c)           as a consequence of (a) and (b) above, and in view of contemporary organisational re-naming trends (including, but not limited to, the Government’s own 2009 re-naming of the former ‘Office for Emergency Services’ to ‘Emergency Management NSW’, or ‘EMNSW’), confirms the Union’s support for the NSWFB to be re-named, by order of preference, either ‘Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW)’ or ‘NSW Fire and Rescue (NSWFR)’; and

d)           is not concerned by the prospect of a name change for the NSWFB, which it supports in-principle, and confirms its intention to maintain the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union name in any event given that the FBEU name reflects the Union’s capacity to cover all professional firefighters in NSW, regardless of employer; and

e)           expressly reserves the Union’s position, and possible response, in the event that the position set out here above is not respected by the NSW Government.”

So the Union not only supports the new name, we proposed it.

New century, new name – Part 2

The NSWFB isn’t the only organisation getting a new name on 1 January. Following on from the 2 December resolution (see point d in the item above) where the State Committee confirmed its intention to retain the FBEU name regardless of the Brigades’ name, the SCOM yesterday resolved to drop the “NSW” from the Union’s name with this resolution:

“That in keeping with the common usage already well established, to pay homage to the Union’s original name of ‘Fire Brigade Employees’ Union of NSW’ at the conclusion of this, the Union’s centenary year and to reaffirm the Union’s long standing position as the trade union representing all firefighters in the industry as opposed to only those firefighters employed by the NSWFB, that commencing 1 January 2011 the Union shall be known and referred to in all communications and materiel as the ‘Fire Brigade Employees’ Union’ and abbreviated as ‘FBEU’, thereby omitting the ‘NSW’, which will nonetheless remain formally part of the registered name until determined otherwise by way of a Rule amendment.”

‘Auditor-General goes fully sick’ update

Last week’s Sitrep hit a raw nerve, with Commissioner Mullins this week claiming that the Union’s assessment was “blatantly incorrect”. Mr Mullins also wrote directly to the Union, complaining that last week’s item was (amongst other things) “offensive and unwarranted” and “defamatory and malicious”. His letter concluded by requesting that the Union “immediately issue an apology and retract these comments from your website.”

The Union stands by those comments. More to follow.

BICE letterboxing banned

The Department recently instructed members in north west Sydney to conduct a ‘Bushfire Interface Community Engagement’ program (aka ‘BICE’, believe it or not) which requires members to letterbox entire neighbourhoods and back that up with presentations to public meetings in conjunction with the RFS. This program has been neither discussed with, nor agreed to by the Union. As much as anything else, the Union questions the sense in using a crew of four professional firefighters and a 15 tonne truck to deliver fire service junk mail when contractors do this every day for less than $40 per 1000 households.

Members are directed that:

  • No member should engage in letterboxing activities as this is unprecedented work, demeaning for professional firefighters, and a profound waste of essential public resources;
  • Members should not sign the pro-forma letter prepared for residents; and
  • Lectures delivered to members of the public in relation to the BICE should be presented by BUI members and/or Senior Officers in consultation with BUI.

12(1)(b) dispute update

For personal reasons, Comrade Osborne this week withdrew his IRC claim for reinstatement. The Union will now pursue his D&D entitlement. I would discourage the Department from misinterpreting this as some sort of vindication of its actions, particularly while the Union’s preparations for an Anti-Discrimination Board action remain on foot.

This development does not change the Union’s opposition to the use of Regulation 12(1)(b). The Union has long objected to this Regulation and its use Osborne’s case was not warranted. The Union wrote to the Minister seeking that the Regulation be amended and the Minister this week responded, advising that he was following the discussions between the Union and the Department over the Union’s proposal to amend Regulation 12(1)(b).

Retained Unit Trainers, a thing of the past

Zone management has attempted to revive the long-dead Unit Trainer concept by offering to train retained members in the delivery units under the proposed Station Training Program. The Union has not agreed to retained members taking on the role of designated Unit Trainers, either pre or post the introduction of the Station Training Program.

Whilst the Award makes provision for the payment of Retained Unit Trainers at the Captain’s rate of pay, the fact remains that this role has not be used for over ten years and in the context of current training regimes, ie Station Drill Program, the role of training delivery in stations remains the Captain’s responsibility.


Jim Casey
State Secretary