November 25, 2014

holidayInside this issue:

  • 40 new jobs and 5 new trucks
  • Retained Feb 2015 wage rise up 0.46%
  • 24 hour shifts and roster flexibility
  • New improved Station Redevelopments policy
  • New improved A/L roster

40 new jobs and 5 new trucks

Members will be aware of the Minister’s announcement yesterday of 40 new permanent firefighter positions to be nominally attached to 5 new CAFS bushfire tankers situated on the bushland/urban interface around Sydney, but which will be used in most instances for general relief duties. The Minister and the Commissioner are both claiming that having these positions in the system will prevent future TOLing, with the important proviso that if sick leave levels rise then TOLing will recommence.

This announcement, revealed in a letter to the Union last Thursday, is the Government’s response to the political damage caused to it by this Union’s two year long campaign against TOLing.

40 extra positions does not undo all the damage that has been done to our job, and nor does it mean the end of all TOLing. It is, however, a good start that has been achieved by Union members putting up “station closed” posters, lobbying councils, speaking to local press, keeping the information flowing to the Union office for us to use in state-wide media, and having a go at last year’s Miranda by-election.

The Union has conveyed our expectations of how the recruitment of retained firefighters to permanent employment will operate, including a call for all 40 positions (not only 22) to be filled by retained members. The Department is expected to call for applications for these positions as soon as tomorrow.

Retained Feb 2015 wage rise up 0.46%

An FBEU application to vary the 2014 Retained Award in order to increase the February 2015 rise in retainers, wages and allowances from 2.04% to 2.5% was granted by the IRC’s President Justice Walton on 19 November. The new, higher February 2015 rates are contained at Part B of the 2014 Retained Award posted on our website under the Wages and Conditions tab.

24 hour shifts and roster flexibility

The ability to work up to 24 hours straight and/or to work a different roster to those provided at Clause 8 are two of the more popular improvements to come out of the new Permanent Award. Many members – and in a couple of cases, entire stations – have already confirmed their wish to do both, with the scale of interest catching both the Department and Union off guard. The rumours that surfaced over the past week  of it all being knocked on the head by management (or, weirdly, by the Union) are, however, unfounded. Both parties remain committed to this increased flexibility happening asap, starting with changes of shift.

Tomorrow’s Commissioner’s Orders will include an amendment of the Standing Order and related policy governing changes of shift to reflect the new 2014 Award’s subclause 8.11 that allows members to elect (but not be directed) to work up to 24 hours straight, subject to the Department’s approval. So senior officers may (and unless there is a compelling reason not to, should) now approve the working by members of “double” shifts.

Concern over potential (but unknown) fatigue is not a compelling reason. It’s already possible that a member or crew will be required to work during a shift such that fatigue emerges as a real issue that needs to managed, particularly during protracted incidents. So this is not new. Fatigue management is a responsibility of both the employer and the employee and while working 24 hours will doubtless give rise to situations and solutions that neither the Department nor the Union have contemplated, both parties understand that some flexibility and common sense will be required while this initiative is implemented.

At this stage the only rules for the working of double shifts by members on the 10/14 Roster are that a member on the 10/14 Roster can apply to work a “double” change of shift on any of the following shifts:

a) the night shift preceding your first day shift;
b) the night shift following your second day shift;
c) the day shift preceding your first night shift; and/or
d) the day shift following your second night shift;

with one exception. The continued requirement for an 8 hour break between shifts means that a member can work either (b) or (c), but not both (b) and (c). The only other rule at present is that a member can only work a “double” shift if one of those shifts is the member’s rostered shift (ie, you cannot work a “double” shift for two other members during your days off).

So that’s it for full and part changes of shift. The implementation of flexible rostering is more complex, with issues like the payment of the “per shift” relieving allowance, out duty limits and overtime still to be resolved, but these are being worked through now and will hopefully all be sorted shortly. In the meantime, members interested in working an alternative roster are encouraged to forward your preferred roster, by fax or email, to the Union office.

New improved Station Redevelopments policy

The State Committee has endorsed a new Commissioner’s Orders for Station Redevelopments that will  provide allowances based on the degree of disturbance, recognising that disturbance does not need to be ‘significant’ or ‘major’ to attract compensation. The new arrangements will also encourage the Department to relocate members to a location within their existing station area, and recognise the potential disturbance to members who suffer a loss of amenity from crowding due to another station sharing their facilities during redevelopment work. While previously, only relocated members could receive the allowance, now both the “home” and “away” station crews may be compensated.

New improved A/L roster

Following endorsement by members at our June 2013 Special General Meeting and the consequent amendment of the 2014 Award to allow for it, permanent Annual Leave rosters will now change next month so that members will no longer work half a set of shifts before or after each A/L period. Each leave group will be moved back by two calendar days to produce two different leave periods – a “short” leave period of 3 full sets off and a “long” leave period of 4 full sets off – over the same 64 week cycle as present.

The new Award expressly provides, at subclause 17.2.2, that “The Department shall ensure that no employee is disadvantaged in terms of leave or pay as a result of their transition to the amended leave roster.” So no member can be left worse off as a result of these changes. The Department has also agreed to be flexible if, for example, a member has already made a booking based on their current leave group dates. Members who believe they will be disadvantaged in some way as a consequence of their new leave roster, and who are unsatisfied with management’s response, should contact the Union for further advice and assistance.

The new, agreed Annual Leave rosters will be published together with the new Station Redevelopments policy referred to above in tomorrow’s Commissioner’s Orders.

Jim Casey
State Secretary

The Commissioner’s Orders have now been published. A copy can be found by clicking here.