1999 July Special General Meeting

July 8, 1999

A Special General Meeting of the Union is to be held in accordance with Rule 11, the details of which are as follows:

Friday 23rd July, 1999
Trades Hall Auditorium,
Goulburn Street, Sydney.
1000 hours (day section)
1900 hours (night section)


1. Apologies

2. State Secretary’s report, including a full update on the progress of the death and disability dispute

3. Special Duties Policy

State Committee of Management recommendation:

That this Special General Meeting of members recognises the complexities involved in developing adequate systems to remunerate and govern working conditions for members involved in special duties positions. This meeting endorses the implementation of the special duties concept in the New South Wales Fire Brigades subject to a number of significant modifications to the Department’s initial proposals.

In doing so, the meeting recognises the following aspects of special duties:

Basic Premise of the Special Duties Concept

Clause 5.2.3 of the current award reads (in part): “The Department and Union have agreed to the concept of separate rates of pay and, where appropriate, separate conditions of employment applying to the occupants of Special Duties Positions.” The Union’s approach to this matter has always been that Special Duties is fundamentally concerned with career-pathing and loosening the traditional rigidity of ranks being attached to certain specified positions within the Brigades – no more and no less. It means that defined special duties positions would be open to all firefighters and officers of Qualified Firefighter rank and above, unless expressly specified otherwise for a particular position or positions. For example, the positions of Manager Training (Chief Superintendent), Equipment Development Officer (Inspector) and Senior Instructor – Country (Station Officer) would all be open to Qualified Firefighters and above.

Potential Advantages of the Special Duties Concept

Provides certainty for “special duties” positions (eg. makes many of them substantive rather than filled permanently by relievers); Provides more transparent selection processes (opening positions to all firefighters (QFF & above) through advertisement rather than selection by local management); Provides greater opportunities for light duties personnel (Light duties personnel can be promoted higher than the rank that they are ‘stuck’ on); Provides specialised career pathing (allowing another career path for firefighters); Removes problems of ranks not filling vacant positions (eg the long-standiing difficulties in filling Instructor positions at the College) and therefore, the need for involuntary secondments; Provides a barrier against contracting out & civilianisation (eg. by codifying special duties jobs and tightening up the Position Descriptions makes the positions firmly firefighter positions); & Removes the need for ad hoc allowances (therefore removing many of the historical inconsistencies between members).

Potential Disadvantages of the Special Duties Concept

Loss of rank positions above (and including) Station Officer; Increased separation of operational and ‘non operational’ positions; Potential for increased elitism and division between members; and Possible weakening of the operational rank structure.

This Meeting feels that these potential disadvantages can be alleviated by:


  • gaining an agreement with the Department that there will be no loss in substantive numbers of Station Officer and Senior Officer ranks due to the implementation of special duties;
  • limiting the tenure of special duties positions so as to limit the separation between the operational and operational (support) streams; &
  • codifying these positions in the Award as explicit firefighting positions.

Processes involved in Special Duties

Special duties positions were first identified by agreement between the Department and the Union. An analysis in conjunction with the incumbents was then made of the job, so as to create a comprehensive Position Description. These position descriptions then in turn were assessed by a Joint Department / Union Committee using the Hay Evaluation Method, which attached points to each position based on the knowledge, skills and accountability levels required by each Position Description. Based on the points derived from this process, the Department and the Union then started negotiations over how these points would translate into wage outcomes for members.

Negotiations over Special Duties

The Department’s initial offer was a complex system of new salary rates with no nexus with existing wage rates. Those rates comprised of a dollar amount based on the Hay points, a special duties allowance component and an Annual Leave Buy-out (the ‘sell your leave for a pay rise’ proposal). This offer was rejected and replaced by the Union’s counter offer, which follows below.

FBEU Proposal

That this meeting determines that the Union’s position on special duties shall be as follows:

Label for Special Duties

That the “Special Duties” category of positions be renamed with a more appropriate title such as Operational (Support), with the final title to be agreed to with the Department by the State Committee of Management.

Maintenance of Rank Numbers

That the State Committee of Management obtain an agreement from the Department that there will be no loss in substantive numbers as at July 23 1999 of Station Officer and Senior Officer ranks due to the implementation of special duties. This agreement is to be made prior to the implementation of special duties.

Positions Covered by Special Duties

That all nominated positions must be agreed between the Union and the Department, and that no positions shall be added to, created or deleted from the agreed schedule of nominated positions without the mutual consent of both parties.

Position Descriptions

That Position Descriptions shall only be amended with the consent of both parties, and that all Position Descriptions shall require the authorisation of both the area Supervisor / Assistant Commissioner and the State Secretary, or other authorised Officer of the Union, in order to take effect. This meeting considers that a review should be set up in the near future to reassess jobs that may have changed in the recent past or where either of the Department or the Union consider that either the job analysis (Position Description Formulation) or the job evaluation (‘grading’ of the positions) was inappropriate.

Minimum Rank of Qualified Firefighter

That all nominated positions must be limited to application from firefighters only, with all Position specifying as an essential requirement that the successful applicant must hold the rank of Qualified Firefighter as a minimum, or such higher rank as may be determined by the State Committee of Management on a position by position basis (eg. OIC BA/Hazmat etc where the position’s role is at least partly exercised at operational incidents).

Progression / Promotion

That all special duties firefighters and officers shall be able to continue to access modules required for promotion through the operational ranks. However, in order to maintain the integrity of the operational command structure, occupants of special duties positions shall not be eligible for rank promotion (eg SF to S/O, S/O to Inspector, etc) until they have undertaken operational firefighting for at least two (2) years at the substantive rank below that to which they seek promotion.

By way of example, a newly promoted Station Officer with only 3 months’ service at that rank could still apply for and go on to spend 5 years in a special duties position, but that 5 years’ special duties service would not count towards the minimum requirement of 2 years operational service as a Station Officer/Station Commander. A member in this situation would therefore have to relinquish the special duties position and serve a further 21 months as an operational Station Officer/Station Commander before they would be eligible to apply for Inspector/Operational Commander promotion.

Existing Occupants of Special Duties Positions

That present occupants are to receive the new ‘salary’ to be attached to the nominated positions backdated from 1 January 1997.

This meeting also considers that equity of access considerations may best be served by allowing for some or all of these positions to be readvertised every three years, with the State Committee of Management being delegated the responsibility to make a final determination on this question in negotiations with the Department. Existing incumbents will in any event have the right, if they so wish, to hold their positions until at least 1 January 2002.

Positions Advertised Internally

That all future vacancies in nominated positions shall be advertised and (subject to the point above) open to firefighters and Officers above the rank of Qualified Firefighter.

Rates of Pay

That the rate of pay and conditions of employment for a nominated position would be dictated by the position itself (irrespective and independent of the successful applicant’s operational rank) for the duration of the period spent in that position.

That the new Permanents’ Award be amended to provide for five new classifications with the following salary rates:

Operational (Support) Level 1 = SFF annual rate + OS rate
Operational (Support) Level 2 = SO (Lvl 1) annual rate + OS rate
Operational (Support) Level 3 = INSP annual rate + OS rate
Operational (Support) Level 4 = SUPT annual rate + OS rate
Operational (Support) Level 5 = CH’F SUPT annual rate + OS rate

OS rate = a flat, universal Operational (Support) rate, with this meeting authorising the State Committee of Management to negotiate and establish that rate.

Conditions of Employment

That the Union maintains that Award conditions should continue to apply to special duties positions. In the case of Operational (Support) Levels 4 & 5, these conditions shall be deemed to be the Award conditions of executive officers.

In relation to the hours of work, the Union’s position is to remain that only those rosters specified in the Award should apply.

Uniforms & the Operational Role of Special Duties Firefighters and Officers

That special duties members will hold both an operational rank and a special duties rank. The only rank that will hold authority at an operational incident shall be the member’s operational rank. The special duties rank is an approximate measure of organisational (as opposed to fireground) authority and serves as a label for pay purposes. Further, a special duties rank is attached to the position, rather than the occupant of that position and as such (unlike a member’s operational rank), is surrendered upon leaving the position.

Light Duties Personnel

That light duties personnel under the special duties model shall have the right to progress to at least the rank of Qualified Firefighter in order that they gain access to special duties positions. This requires the Department to rescind its discriminatory policy of holding back the progression of light duty members. Accordingly, this meeting requires the State Committee of Management to procure agreement from the Department that this will occur prior to the implementation of special duties.

Further, given the tenuous job security of light duties members who are not protected by the old State Super Fund’s death and disability provisions, the Union’s acceptance of the entire special duties concept is to be subject to the satisfactory resolution of the current death and disability dispute.

4. Future promotions to Station Officer rank

State Committee of Management recommendation:

That with reference to the Union’s standing Merit Selection/Promotion Policy as determined by the rank and file membership at the Annual General Meeting held November 27, 1998, this Special General Meeting of members determines that the new system of promotion via the Station Officer Promotional Program (SOPP) model shall commence immediately following the promotion of the last member on the existing Leading Firefighters’ List who successfully passed the examination in 1996 first-up (ie without posts). This is to say, all Leading Firefighters who occupy a position on the Leading Firefighters’ List by having passed post-examinations will hereafter be afforded promotion via the SOPP.

The method of selection for entry into the SOPP shall be by way of a Pre-Entry Test which shall be open to all Senior Firefighters who have acquired 80% of the Station Officer competencies, and all Leading Firefighters who may choose to do so. This Pre-Entry Test shall consist of two components. The first component shall be directed at assessing the current knowledge of the applicant. This test shall be focussed on the knowledge that an eligible Senior Firefighter should reasonably be expected to have after 9 years of service and shall comprise 60% of the total score of the Pre-Entry Test. The second component shall focus on the knowledge and understanding of Station Officers’ management and supervision issues. This component shall be conducted by an independent party, possibly the University of Western Sydney or a similar institution, and shall be based on pre-reading supplied to the applicants. This component shall comprise 40% of the total score of the Pre-Entry Test. The aggregate mark achieved by applicants for the total Pre-Entry Test shall then determine their position on an order of merit list for entry into that year’s SOPP’s.

In determining this way, it is expected that only one Pre-Entry Test shall be held each year, with the highest placed candidates being placed in the first SOPP and the balance of the required number going into the second SOPP, or whatever other number of SOPP’s may be required for any given year according to operational requirements. Further, it is acknowledged that there will be no post pre-entry tests as these shall be one-off tests repeated each year, providing applicants who may be unsuccessful with the opportunity to reapply and sit for the next year’s Pre-Entry Test.

5. Promotion of Leading Firefighters under the new S/O Promotion Policy

State Committee of Management recommendation:

That whilst this Meeting reaffirms its support for the Union’s Policy which sought to provide all members on the existing Leading Firefighter’s List guaranteed entry to the SOPP through a 75% Leading Firefighter / 25% Pre-Entry Test applicants split, it is also recognised that the Department has continued to strongly reject any preference of Leading Firefighters over Senior Firefighters greater than 50% / 50%.

This Meeting recognises the considerable progess made by the Union in negotiations to date given that the Department’s position as recently as June 4 1999 had been for the abolition of Leading Firefighter Lists altogether, which would have resulted in no preference for or recognition of Leading Firefighters over any other member. In stark contrast, the negotiated position now stands to ensure that the Leading Firefighters’ List shall continue until such time as each and every Leading Firefighter has gained automatic entry to the SOPP (ie without having to undertake a Pre-Entry Test) by order of their placement on that List.

This Meeting accepts that the impact of a 50 / 50% split versus a 75 / 25% split on Leading Firefighters will be negligible for the majority of LF members, and may in fact prove to be advantageous for those Leading Firefighters further down the List who choose to seek earlier promotion by undertaking the Pre-Entry Test and competing for the 50% of Pre-Entry Test positions. This understanding, when balanced against the improved position afforded to Senior Firefighter members who also hold legitimate aspirations to the rank of Station Officer, leads this Meeting to accept the Department’s counter-position of entrance to the SOPP on a 50 / 50% basis, with 50% of all SOPP positions being automatically awarded to each and every Leading Firefighter by order of their placement on the List, and the other 50% of places in each SOPP going to the highest placed Pre-Entry Test applicants.

This arrangement shall continue until such time as all Leading Firefighters have gained automatic access to the SOPP, following which the 50 / 50% quota will be replaced by a system whereby 100% of positions in each year’s SOPP’s will be allocated to the highest placed Pre-Entry Test applicants.

6. Adjournment / Close

Chris Read
State Secretary 



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