The Department is presently refusing to allow an injured retained firefighter back to work – despite a full-recovery of his workers’ compensation injury. The reason? It is alleged that the particular member is “unfit” for firefighting. The Department is telling the member that despite his recovery from the workers’ comp. injury, he will be placed on sick-leave until his “fitness” improves. After his sick-leave expires, all that will be left is social security.
If this development is not defeated, the Department will be able to place you on the sick-list for being “unfit” – indefinitely. There has never been a requirement for firefighters to maintain a level of fitness throughout their employment, and there has never been a recognised minimum fitness standard.
The Union is particularly concerned about the consequences of any “fitness” standard for those members on the later State Authorities Superannuation Scheme (SASS) and First State Super (FSS). Neither of these schemes provide for any “breakdown” benefit other than for permanent invalidity – ie that a member is incapable of ever working – in any occupation – ever again. The issue is one that affects all members – both retained and permanent – although management has attempted to “hose down” many permanent members by stating that “he’s only a retained firey”! Despite such an offensive and derogatory line being taken, Permanent members commenced industrial action at 1800 hours, Friday 7/11.
The issue at stake is essentially one of job-security. The Union has spent the last week attempting to avoid this dispute, holding further negotiations as recently as today. The Union is demanding – as a minimum position – that the Department return to the previous status-quo because, as usual, this dispute has been brought on by the Department moving the goal-posts. Despite an obvious threat to potentially 100’s of members’ jobs, the Department is refusing to back down.
Accordingly, all retained members are instructed that, effective immediately, the following bans and limitations shall apply, statewide:
No paperwork or administrative duties are to be undertaken other than firefighter pay/leave related matters and fire reports, but only at sections A3, A4, A6, A8, A14, A15, A16, A17 and A23.
These bans are to remain in force until further notice. Notice of a Special General Meeting to consider the escalation of industrial action is expected shortly.