May 18, 2012

Inside this issue:

  • O’Farrell’s class war ramps up – workers compensation blitzkrieg
  • Motorcycle club raids – we aren’t the cops
  • Meal and Refreshment Allowances – Union Prosecution
  • The Unmeritorious Department
  • Baulkham Hills matrix distance – update
  • Correct Stat Dec form


O’Farrell’s class war ramps up – workers compensation blitzkrieg

In SITREP 8/2012 the Union flagged the Government’s intentions to take a hatchet to the NSW workers compensation scheme – “O’Farrell’s war on workers – part 4, workers comp.” This week the Unions NSW Campaign against the attack on workers compensation was launched along with the campaign website.

The O’Farrell Government has said that it is going to reduce the rights of injured workers by cutting weekly payments, capping medical expenses, removing the right to claim for injuries that happen while travelling to and from work and axing compensation for pain and suffering.

These changes will have an appalling impact on workers and their families.

The FBEU will be leading delegations to visit Government MP’s and there will be a Joint Delegates Meeting on Thursday 24 May 2012 at 12.30pm at the NSW Teachers Federation Auditorium. A rally of all NSW union members will be held on 13 June. In the meantime visit the website, sign the petition, email your local MP and spread the word that this Government simply hates working people.

Motorcycle club raids – we aren’t the cops

Members may have seen media reports this week of firefighters being involved in what were described as joint raids with police on premises suspected to be owned by members of motorcycle clubs.

The Union is extremely concerned that FRNSW firefighters were portrayed this way.

Firefighters are not an ‘arm of the law’, nor do we actively involve ourselves in raids and drug busts. Any involvement at crime scenes by our members is purely on the basis of assisting police on matters relating to fire safety, rescue and hazardous materials issues.

The bona fides of FRNSW as an emergency service, and that of our members, relies on its independence from law enforcement and the community’s confidence that we can be called to deal impartially with the emergencies for which we exist. We are not police, we are firefighters, and have long demanded this separation in the interests of FRNSW, the public and our members. The use of firefighters to provide leverage for a police action plainly prejudices this separation.

Our Union has long standing tradition and policy on this matter. As far back as 1961 the FBEU took a stand on this type of reporting in the media, and in 1977 we made it policy that it would not hose demonstrators or be seen as participating in law enforcement. To quote from the Red Brigade:

The Union made it a policy that it would not hose demonstrators. In 1977 union President Bill Turtle moved quickly to quash the impression created by news reports that firefighters had helped police break up a demonstration by about 70 Sydney University students. They were only there, he told the Sun newspaper, because some ‘very smoky smoke bombs’ had been let off. His members did not cooperate in any way in breaking up demonstrations, he said. The union had a slogan, which in the late 1980s was still policy: ‘We Fight Fires, Not People’.

The union protest then was an echo of that in 1961 which saw the front page of NSW Firefighter blazing, ‘We Won’t Be Wallopers’. President Rex Threlfo wrote a spirited rebuttal of a newspaper report which said firefighters had turned their hoses on rioters at Parramatta Girls’ Home. The police, he said, had borrowed the hoses and used them themselves. He would not like unionists to think, he said, that firefighters would allow themselves to be used as ‘a potential anti-working class force’.”

I have written to the Michael Gallacher, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, seeking his assurance that members will not be used in this way in the future.

Meal and Refreshment Allowances – Union Prosecution

As members are aware, the Union is prosecuting the Department for breaches of the Awards in so far as it is failing to pay members incident and overtime meal and refreshment allowances by the end of the shift or overtime, in accordance with Clause 10 of the Permanent Award and Clause 8 of the Retained Award.

Each time a member is not paid their due entitlement in accordance with the relevant Award, by the end of the shift or overtime, a breach of the award has been committed.  The Department may be fined up to $10,000 for each breach. It is crucial for the success of the Union’s prosecution that we collect all evidence of each and every breach.

Therefore, all Station Delegates are asked to:

  1. Make a list of all incident and overtime meal and refreshment allowances since 16 March 2012 not paid to members at their stations in accordance with the relevant Award (ie. by the end of the shift or overtime) as of the end of this week, and send it to the union at office@fbeu.net by next week; and
  2. continue to make a weekly list of all such unpaid allowances, and similarly send it to the union at office@fbeu.net at the beginning of the following week or as soon as possible thereafter.

Each list should detail:

a)  the date the allowance was claimed (and payment was due)
b)  the name and service number of the member making the claim (and not paid)
c)  the nature of the allowance not paid, ie. refreshment, incident meal or overtime meal
d)  whether the allowance claimed was received at a later time (after the end of the shift or overtime) and if so on what date.

 Download a copy of the form for Station Delegates to use to record this information here.

The Unmeritorious Department

In a classic case of do as I say, not as I do, the Department this week showed its true colours on merit, when a member who had been selected as the best candidate for an operational support EOI position was blocked by area management from taking it up. The reason? “Operational Capability”, ie his secondment might possibly incur some overtime.

Over the last two years the Department has been running a hard line on merit selection. It is apparently fair, ethical, the way of the future, and only a dinosaur would oppose it. The Union is open to negotiate on the question of merit selection, but not when the Department’s commitment to it only runs as deep as the cost of a recall.

Baulkham Hills matrix distance – update

The Union recently launched proceedings in the IRC in relation to the Baulkham Hills matrix distance dispute (see SITREP 12/2012).  After more than two years of attempting to shortchange members by calculating matrix distances according to the shortest distance possible, the Department has now conceded the Union position that the quickest route best reflects the “actual distance necessarily and reasonably travelled” as provided by the Award.

Consequently all members that have not been paid for Clause 12 entitlements in relation No. 67 Stn Baulkham Hills or believe that their entitlements do not reflect the actual distance reasonably and necessarily travelled should email the Union at office@fbeu.net

Correct Stat Dec forms

On 20 February 2012 the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) put out a circular detailing changes to how JPs and solicitors witness documents, and noted “Heads of agencies should ensure that any NSW statutory declaration or affidavit forms produced or used by their agency are amended to incorporate the certification wording before 30 April 2012.” They even attached a pro-forma of the new stat dec form.

As of today, and almost three months after the circular from DPC, the station portal still has the old invalid stat dec for firefighters to use. If this form is used, the new regulations can mean fines are imposed on JPs for a criminal offence. In lieu of the Department correcting this simple matter (and it’s not like they didn’t get enough notice), we advise members to use the correct form.

Update: The correct form can be downloaded here

 Jim Casey
State Secretary