January 8, 1997

(NSW Firefighter, Summer 1996/97 supplement)

Members would be aware that the 12%, 2 year Award negotiated between the Union, Department and NSW Government, and approved by members at the Special General meeting of 22/11/96, struck difficulties on 17/12/96. Indeed, the Union only learnt of the Government’s withdrawal of the offer late on the afternoon of 17/12/96 – less than a day before the new Award was listed to be heard by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

The reason for the Government’s withdrawal appears to have been simply the duration of the Award, which was to expire 31/12/98 – three months before the next State election. Members can draw their own conclusions as to why the Government might be reluctant to have the FBEU campaigning for a new wage round just before a State election, although it does at least suggest that politicians hold a healthy degree of respect for this Union.

Next the Union demanded an immediate settlement, under threat of escalating industrial action. Whilst your officials were clearly not impressed by the Government’s turn-around, the Union did indicate it was prepared to discuss an extension of the term of the Award – provided the Government was prepared to pay for it. Negotiations dragged on throughout 18/19 & 20th December, however the absence of any agreement forced the Union to implement limited bans as of 1800 hours, Friday 20th. The Department and Government were placed on notice that the Union’s industrial action would escalate very quickly if a satisfactory settlement was not reached prior to Christmas.

On the afternoon of Monday 23rd, the Department was warned that wider industrial action would commence at 1800 hours if no formal position was received by the Union by that time. The Union duly initiated stop-work action throughout the GSA at 1800 hours, only to receive notice that a formal position was in the process of being faxed through to the Union office. The stop-work action was suspended immediately upon receipt of that fax.

The mechanism for the proposed 18%, 3 year Award remains the same as that for the previous 12%, 2 year offer however the variations to the previous 12%/2 year position are provided over. Some members have apparently been mislead to believe that the new proposal is actually for a four – not three – year Award, which is clearly incorrect. The new 18% proposal actually extends the duration of the previous 12% Award by only 8 months (from 31/12/98 to 8/8/99) yet delivers an additional 6% in total, and delivers what is effectively a full 12% increase within the first year of the Award (6% backdated to 8/8/96 & 6% effective from 8/8/97).

The fact remains that the Union, largely relying upon its industrial militancy, has achieved what amounts to an unprecedented, superior wage deal for NSW firefighters. There are various amendments to the position previously voted upon by the rank and file, and as such a further Special General Meeting shall be held ASAP (notice of Meeting to follow shortly) in order to allow members the final say in accepting or rejecting this offer. It is expected that acceptance will allow payment to be made, backdated to 8/8/96, early-mid February.

A breakdown of the amended position, ie where varied from the previous 12% proposal, is provided over.

Chris Read

State Secretary

8th January, 1996


NB: The overview immediately following does not seek to provide a definitive explanation of the proposed Award, rather it serves merely to distinguish between the new proposal for 18% over 3 years versus the previously adopted position of the rank and file for 12% over 2 years. The new 18% proposal is set out in bold, the previous 12% position set out in regular italic immediately below:

The proposed Award will expire 8/8/99 (3 year duration – 8/8/96 to 8/8/99)

The 12% Award would have expired on 31/12/98 (2.4 year duration)

  • The proposed Award will provide 18%, as follows:

8 August 1996         6%

8 August 1997         6%

8 August 1998         3%

1 February 1999      3%

The 12% Award would have provided 12%, as follows:

8 August 1996          5%

31 December 1997            5%

1 July 1998               2%

  • The proposed Award will contain 6% “productivity”, as follows:

1% closure of provincial communications centres, transfer of No.1 Stn Lighting vehicle staff;

3% transfer of water tanker staff (7 water tankers in total of this Award);

2% “value added” productivity, for additional duties performed over the previous two years, as well as additional member involvement in station management and public education/prevention roles and altering the 12 month out-duty period from 8 per calendar year to 8 over the year immediately following the first out-duty performed.

The 12% Award would have contained 3% “productivity”, as follows:

1% closure of provincial communications centres, transfer of No.1 Stn Lighting vehicle staff;

2% transfer of water tanker staff (4.3 water tankers in total).

Other, previously unresolved matters on which agreement has been reached:

Relieving: An increase in the daily relieving/out-duty allowance from $15.00 per day to $18.00 per day, and increase in the kilometre rate from 60 cents/km to

68 cents/km and a reduction in the non-payment radius from 10km to 5km. New agreement reached that R/F’s and R/O’s cannot be compelled to relieve outside their fire district.

Subsidised accommodation: Departmental accommodation rental to be set at 50% of market rental, or 5% of weekly wage, whichever is the lower.

Rescue allowance: No allowance under this Award, but agreement for no “rescue” out-duties to be performed for rescue qualified members.

Country S/O’s allowance: Allowance reinstituted, to be set a $5.00 per week.

There will be a comprehensive document circulated with the forthcoming Special General Meeting notice. The details of the Retained Award are yet to be negotiated with the Department, however funding arrangements for retained increases will be in line with those above. Retained members shall be afforded the opportunity to accept or reject the negotiated Award in due course.



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