This week’s Issue No. 69 of the infamous (and increasingly weird) “Commish’s Corner” carries an article headed “Fighting Fires With New Fitness Levels”. Just about all of the information contained within that article came as news to us – particularly the “random” fitness test concept. Despite having endured over 2 months of sustained industrial disputation, the Commissioner seems to think that there is nothing wrong with announcing a revolutionary new fitness regime through his weekly “funnies”! Frankly, we wouldn’t consider this to be an acceptable way to conduct industrial relations at the best of times, and it certainly does not help in any way whatsoever to resolve this current dispute.
In November 1997, our Union went to war with the Department on the issue of post-employment health and fitness testing. We weren’t necessarily opposed to the concept, but we were demanding then that every firefighter was afforded the same “safety-net” protection in the event that they didn’t pass – and we continue to do so now. This is in fact where the current D&D dispute really kicked off. After more than 2 weeks of industrial action (and many, many conferences), the Commissioner wrote to the Union on November 26, 1997 (in part) as follows:
“In all the circumstances I do not believe it would be in the Department’s best interest to enforce a fitness standard or assessment of firefighters until the superannuation issue has been finalised, however, the Department will continue to encourage and support the notion of firefighters attaining a standard of fitness which will best assist them in their endeavours to carry out their operational duties.”
Hmmm, so what happened? We probably shouldn’t be surprised at this though, because he also wrote in the very same letter that:
“The fundamental principle relating to the development of the new superannuation scheme is recognised as being one of equity and it is not envisaged that there will be any diminution of benefits already applying to firefighters covered by other schemes. Whilst I cannot give an unfettered assurance that the scheme will be developed “no later than 31 August 1998″, I suggest that we both do our best to conclude it by that date . . . . .”
Ignore the Commissioner. The fact is that the Department won’t be introducing any fitness program/testing unless a General Meeting of our membership agrees.