February 10, 2012


Inside this issue:

  • Yes, tea and coffee are still refreshments – Part 3
  • Australian Firefighters Health Study update

 

 

Yes, tea and coffee are still refreshments – Part 3

The provision of meals and refreshments and the payment in lieu thereof is a perennial issue for the Department that last saw the parties before the IRC in early October last year when the Department triggered an unnecessary dispute trying to recoup refreshment allowances from members who were not provided with tea and coffee (see SITREP 39/2011).

Members will recall the absurd argument of the Department in those proceedings that tea and coffee are diuretics and counterproductive to the hydration needs of firefighters.  This argument was ridiculous, not only because the Department’s own Hydration and Nutrition Policy (In Orders 2008/23) regards moderate caffeine intake as posing no risk to hydration, but because it failed to recognise that fireground refreshment is about workplace amenity, not just hydration.

It seems the Department has learned nothing from those proceedings and has now proposed a draft Incident ground refreshments and meals policy that includes this pearler:

Tea and coffee do not provide any additional hydration or nutrition benefits to those provided by water and carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement beverages.  As such tea and coffee do not form part of the refreshment requirements to ensure the health and safety of operational personnel responding to prolonged incidents.  However personnel may choose to consume tea and coffee if available.  An inability to provide hot water, tea and coffee does not create an entitlement to a meal and/or refreshment allowance (emphasis added).

Firefighters have been entitled to tea, coffee and biscuits as fireground refreshments for more than 70 years.  This is a cynical attempt by the Department to create a policy to circumvent Award entitlements. SITREP 39/2011 and the Union’s Meals and Refreshments Guide (see website) both confirm that the refreshment allowance is payable if tea and coffee and hot water is not provided. Members who believe they are entitled to the allowance but are refused payment should contact the Union.

Australian Firefighters Health Study update

As an Australian Firefighters’ Health Study Advisory Committee member, the FBEU this week received an update on the study’s progress. Bulletin No. 1 and FAQs have now been uploaded to the Study’s website.

One of the aims of the study is to investigate differences in the overall death rate and rates for specific causes of death in Australian firefighters compared to those of the general population. The outcomes of primary interest are deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, non-malignant respiratory diseases and traumatic injury.

The study is the first of this scale in Australia and the FBEU looks forward to working with Monash University over the course of the review.

Jim Casey
State Secretary