July 7, 2017
  • J and Z Relieving to finish – update #3
  • Health and Fitness testing – update #2
  • Operational Support dispute
  • Meal and travel allowances increased on 1 July
  • In brief …

J and Z Relieving to finish – update #3

Further to SITREP 24, the Department and Union returned to the IRC today where it was agreed that:

  1. the Department will confirm where every J or Z type reliever is located by 13 July 2017.
  2. in order to allow the LFs and LSOs now needed further time to be selected and trained:
    a) J type relieving will continue until 30 September 2017, when every J type reliever will either cease or convert to a Z reliever; and
    b) Z type relieving will continue until 30 September 2018, when every Z type reliever will be attached to a single platoon at their base station.
  3. there will be no J or Z type cross-shift/roster relieving beyond the dates at point 2 unless the Award expressly provides for it.

So the dispute is now settled. J relieving will end on 30 September this year, Z relieving will continue until 30 September next year and there will be no J or Z type relieving beyond that date unless the Union agrees to it and/or the Award is amended to allow it. That might be 15 months away yet, but the Union was very clear that it will not allow the Department to force transfer former Z relievers outside of the GSA back to Sydney in retribution for our withdrawal from the J and Z agreement.

Health and Fitness testing – update #2

Our last update on 5 May in SITREP 17 warned of the Department’s application to the IRC for compulsory health and fitness testing to start this week. That didn’t happen, but the issue has been back to the IRC twice since then, and most recently for the better part of today. The parties were today directed to hold further negotiations before the matter returns for a further conciliation on 4 August.

Health and fitness testing for RFS firefighters has emerged as a major issue that the Union raised with the IRC today, and with both the FRNSW and RFS Commissioners at yesterday’s quarterly Fire Services Joint Standing Committee meeting. Both services say they are responsible only for the health and safety of their own firefighters, but they frequently engage in joint operations so they cannot (in our view) dismiss the health and fitness of the other’s firefighters as an issue for the other service. It is difficult to see why firefighters who perform the same or similar operational duties and who could reasonably be expected to engage in joint operations with the other service should not be required to meet the same minimum health and fitness requirements and tests. More to follow.

Operational Support dispute

The Department recently attempted to employ permanent and retained firefighters as clerks in ComSafe in order to avoid the Permanent and Retained Awards’ higher wage rates, and to allow the Department to employ non-firefighters in our Operational Support jobs. The Union notified the IRC of a dispute, which then recommended that the Union return with a counter-proposal that responds to the Department’s claims that it is unable to fill many OS vacancies due to an alleged lack of interest from permanent firefighters. The Union’s State Committee response is as follows:

  • The Award’s minimum service requirement for Operational Support positions should be amended from 48 months to QF rank (ie 24 months).
  • The rank/classification of Operational Support Inspector should be discontinued and OS3 reinstated, with any incumbents to transition from OS Inspector to Inspector and OS3. This restoration of Operational Support career-pathing should invite a wider field of applicants and provide further incentive for members to remain in OS2 positions, which should in turn be more attractive to non-Operational Support members.
  • The Permanent Award’s Clause 7 should be amended to allow any member of QF rank or above to fill any Operational Support position on merit (eg Fleet Officers).All Operational Support positions should be initially advertised to all permanents of QF rank and above. In the event that there were no suitable applicants then the position should be readvertised to all permanents of QF rank and above and to all retained members with 8 or more years service, this being consistent with the 24 month service/QF requirement for permanents and the recently negotiated 25% service recognition of former retained firefighters who transfer to permanent employment, who could therefore be employed as QFs and therefore satisfy the Award’s revised QF service requirement for Operational Support.
  • Successful retained applicants should be employed as permanent firefighters on the understanding that they would need to serve a minimum of three years in the Operational Support position for which they applied and could not transfer to another position (OS or station) before satisfying the other requirements for permanent employment (ie PAT, medical and appropriate Recruit training).
  • The Award’s current OS1 rate should be adjusted to the SF rate plus $5.53, and permanent members performing casual ComSafe duties (only) should be paid overtime at the OS1 rate.
  • The Department should agree that retained members who perform casual ComSafe duties are working in lieu of permanent members and should therefore be paid in accordance with the Retained Award’s subclause 6.7, Relief Duties for any and all such work.

Meal and travel allowances increased on 1 July

Each year certain allowances in our Awards increase on and from 1 July. Click here for the table containing the new meal and travel allowances, as confirmed by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) this week. The allowances are determined at a level consistent with the reasonable allowance amounts for the 2017/18 financial year, as determined by the ATO and the Sydney CPI increase for the March quarter. Members are entitled and advised to claim the new rates immediately and back to 1 July.

In brief …

Union dues are tax deductible:  Members are reminded that Union dues are fully tax deductible and should be claimed as a work-related expense in annual tax returns. Your FRNSW Payment Summary should include the amount of Union dues paid (and to be claimed) for the 2016/17 year.

Last call for the 2017 Threlfo Toast:   There are less than 50 tickets left for the 3rd Rex Threlfo Annual Toast on Tuesday week, 18 July. See the Union’s website for a link to our ticket sales site.

Emailing SITREP:   We plan to start emailing SITREP each week to members who we have an email address for, but we want your feedback first. Good idea or bad? Let us know at office@fbeu.net

Leighton Drury
State Secretary

For a printable copy of this SITREP, please click here.