D&D Dispute update #29

November 19, 1999

Response to Commissioner’s Industrial Update

Our caring, sharing Commissioner is now showing his support for our “just cause” (his words) by refusing to promote members, threatening to not open new stations and refusing to negotiate a new Award. He says that Award negotiations can’t start until all of the 1997 Award’s commitments have been met. Well, we all know one commitment which hasn’t been met, Clause 5.2.4 – a new firefighters’ superannuation scheme!

It’s hard to negotiate with people when they don’t understand their own position. The Commissioner seems to think that their offer will only apply to on-duty firefighters “engaged in operational duties”. Read it again Ian. The Government’s current offer would cover any firefighter who is injured, on-duty OR off-duty – and even one who was injured while working a second job, although it won’t pay pensions. Instead they say they’ll find new “light-duties” jobs which don’t yet exist somewhere else in the Brigades. Combined with their attempt to introduce compulsory fitness standards for all firefighters, where are all of these 100’s of new jobs going to come from? Even if Ian MacDougall doesn’t understand the Government’s offer, we do. It can’t last in the long term – it’s just a cynical sham to get us off their backs and keep us quiet until after the next state election.

The Commissioner can howl about “off-duty” injuries, rock fishing and water skiing accidents – even “working a second job” – but he’s missing the point. We all do the same job, we all work under the same Award, and we all expect the same benefits. If only they’d let us, we’d all be members of the same super scheme too. The fact remains that any pre-1985 member who is medically retired from the NSWFB for any reason whatsoever (yes Ian, even for injuries sustained while working a second job) will go out on a lifetime pension. That system served us well for 70 years, so contrary to Mr MacDougall’s concerns, it can be sustained.

Then the Commissioner says that pre-1985 firefighters have to pay for their D&D entitlements themselves through contributions to their superannuation scheme. That’s fine by us – just open it up to everyone else and the rest of us will pay too.

Mr MacDougall is worried about the impact of our bans on the budget. So are we, but frankly, rescue gear and positive pressure fans all run a very poor 2nd to you and your family. If you ever found yourself unemployed and in a wheelchair, it would come as pretty small consolation for you to gaze out your window only to see all the NSWFB’s shiny new fire engines running up and down your street!

Does the Commissioner really think we’ll swallow his lies, back down, accept a half -baked deal and say “Sorry, we were wrong”? Who’s being counter-productive? If he wants to provoke a general walk out of our members, he’s well on his way.

Chris Read
State Secretary